WITH a feathery stageful of boas,African masks and shaky canes, the LittleTheatre Group (LTG) delivered a stunningperformance of “Trees Die Standing Tall”on opening night, Friday, Feb. 25, at theBlanche Brown Theatre in BelloHorizonte, Escazú.The work, by prolific Spanish playwrightAlejandro Casona (1903-1965), isthe theater group’s first production in 2005– and what a way to start the year.The casting could not have been morefitting, with Ann Antkiw, a graduate of theLondon Academy of Music and DramaticArt and longtime LTG member, as animpeccable Grandma, struggling to maskher pain from the world so she can one day“die standing tall.”“SHE (Grandma) is wonderful, theplaywright defines her character reallywell. I had no problem knowing what thiswoman was about,” said Antkiw, whoaffirms she has developed a love-hate relationshipwith the stage, where, after 50years of acting, she still gets panicky.The actress said working with a “younggroup” was great.“We had a wonderful cast, a veryhappy atmosphere. It helps, when you goout on stage, knowing that every person isgiving their best,” she said.THE group’s attitude yielded excellentresults, with performances by Lori Salo,who, in her theatrical debut as Isabel, magnificentlyenacted the struggle of comingforward with the truth versus containing itinside a fake, happy bubble. Also debutingon the stage, Joquin Ives Brant, asMaurice, perfectly filled the role of theone-sided, relentless idealist. Lisa DeFuso,as Helen, the sparkly secretary at the factoryof dreams, and Ricardo Jiménez, as awonderfully shaky Grandpa, were amongthe other main characters.The play, set in present-day England,narrates the story of Isabel, a woman savedfrom suicide by a secret organizationdesigned to give people one last hope.After rescuing her, the organizationrecruits Isabel for a mission in which sheand her new boss play the role of Mauriceand his wife to give Grandma, who has notseen her grandson in 20 years, an illusionof happiness.Things heat up when, in the midst of adeveloping romance between Isabel andher boss, the real Maurice, a physically andemotionally scarred rebel, returns, shatteringGrandma’s fantasy.ALTHOUGH the play is classified asa romantic comedy, its somewhat tragicending points to the absurdity of attemptingto deny certain realities.Despite, or perhaps because of, theplay’s emotional intensity, the crowd ragedon opening night.“That was excellent!” Escazú residentGina Burgess said. “I loved the set,very well decorated, and Grandma’s performance.This makes you want to gointo acting.”LTG will perform “Trees Die StandingTall” through March 13, at 7:30 p.m.Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. onSundays. Tickets are ¢2,500 ($5.40),¢1,000 ($2.15) for students. For reservations,call 355-1623 or visit www.intertica.com/LTG.htm.