Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Maple and Vine

Jordan Harrison's fantastic new play, Maple and Vine, being produced at Playwrights Horizons this season is storytelling at its absolute best!  Are you a tired, stressed-out, overworked tranquilized New Yorker?  This play offers you an alternative - a chance to live the "simpler life" by moving to a "community" where everyone lives authentically in 1955. The looks, the ideals, and all that goes with the culture of the era.  You'll have to give up a few things tho.  "Jamaican Jerk, Sushi, Hummus, Foccacia, Baba-Ganoush... Whole Grain Bread... No pine puts, no pesto, no Lattes...  What you will get is... Salt..."

Marin Ireland (Katha) and Peter Kim (Ryu), after much debate, decide to take the plunge for an initial six month trial and move to the gated community of the SDO - The Society of Dynamic Obsolescence after being tantalized by the concept by two current full-fledged members - Trent Dawson (Dean) and Jeanie Serralles (Ellen).  Will this "mixed-race" couple survive?  Will their neighbors welcome them with open arms?  What Ryu, a plastic surgeon, survive his job as a box folder at the local plant?  How will Kath(y), a book publisher, survive in the kitchen?  What deep, dark secrets lurk beneath the surface in this anachronistic community?  You'll just have to see it for yourself to find out.

The play is cleverly divided into it's two natural parts - Act One starts us off in current day in NYC giving us the background on just who Katha and Ryu are and why they're so discontented with their lives.  A chance meeting with Dean (and later Ellen) ultimately intrigues them enough to make the move to the SDO.  Act Two picks up with the same Kath(y) and Ryu living in the SDO working their way through the cultural, religious, and social customs of 1955.  We learn how the time was different - for many people - including Dean and Roger (played by the incredibly sexy Pedro Pascal).  What ultimately unfolds is a tale you'd never suspect - and at the same time - exactly what you would have guessed.

On such a tiny stage, Alexander Dodge (Scenic Design) has done an award winning job at designing the time-accurate yet minimalist sets.  And special shout-out to the hardest working stage crew in the biz - which was completely recognized by the director by having them take a bow along with the cast.  A nice touch and certainly well deserved.

No spoilers here - just know that it's an evening of superb storytelling in the theatre laced with racial, ethnic and political undertones that serve as a reminder that as romantic and glamorous as the time was, perhaps life was not quite so simple as we would like to think.