Maple and Vine

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    December 1, 2011

    (Review by Tulis McCall)

    This is a show that will totally creep you out – and for some seriously great Baby Boomer reasons.

    Imagine what would have happened if Ozzie and Harriet went rogue. Went rogue and then time traveled to find Rod Serling, who happened to know a real estate developer out in nowhere central America (Indiana, Iowa, Kansas – get it?). And this bunch of lunatics imagined a community that would be self sufficient and firmly planted in the year 1955. Milk would be delivered in glass bottles to the doorstep of each house. All the women would be long-waisted and spend their days in social committee meetings when they weren’t making canapés for that lovely cocktail hour when the men returned home. And the men were all in the manufacturing business.

    Sounds scary, eh? Sure, sure. But when you are a couple in Manhattan, recovering from a miscarriage and re-examining your lives in a huge way – well, an accidental meeting n the park with a man carrying a briefcase and wearing a fedora might turn out to be the very best thing that ever happened to you.

    Katha (Marin Ireland) and Ryu (Peter Kim) are the above mentioned couple. They are not stupid or naïve people. She is a publishing exec and he is a plastic surgeon. They are, however, vulnerable in the extreme. The miscarriage was several months ago, and it has shaken their world. The life they thought they would have as a family in New York has been shattered. While Ryu carries on as best he can, Katha has been overtaken by grief to the extent that she quits her job without telling him. She retreats to the park on her last day, and it is there that she and Dean (Trent Dawson) cross paths.

    Dean is congenial and enthusiastic. He is so squeaky clean that his cheeks sparkle. Oh yes they do. Not only is he clean, he offers an out: Come for six months, he says. Just try it. This is the equivalent of asking someone to “foster” a puppy. Off they Katha and Ryu go. They arm themselves with a secret word they can say when they have to unload about missing their life in the real world. And the creepy part is – they begin to like it in 1955.

    In spite of the fact that Ryu is of Japanese descent and has to deal with the usual mistakes and slurs, some of which are requested by Katha in order to make the experience more authentic, they make their way into the community. Dean and his wife Ellen, Ellen, portrayed to p-e-r-f-e-c-t-i-o-n by Jeanine Serralles become good friends. As Dean leads the community, Ellen provides that June Cleaver crisp perfection of high heels, crinoline and meatloaf – not to mention the part where Ward has to come in and have a look at the Beaver. Ellen is the one who gets to the heart, the details, of what joining the Society of Dynamic Obsolescene entails:

    No Kalamata olives.
    No pine nuts.
    No pesto.
    No Lattes.
    That’s hard for a lot of people.
    What you get?
    Is salt.
    You get pepper.
    Mayonnaise. Mustard.
    You get dried oregano.
    Bay leaves.
    Paprika, if you want a little kick.
    Sanka.
    It’s a relief, the limitations. You’ll find that it’s a relief.

    This cast delivers the goods. Life is perfect and perfectly frightening. But because this Never Land is not hermetically sealed, there is a kind of predictability to the inevitable fly in the ointment. But the particulars of the upset are just real enough to surprise you. This is fine tuned dementia.

    And here is a creepier part. There are people out there – you know, the ones outside of New York - who are looking for a nirvana like this and would leap at the chance to join the SDO. 1955 was a fine year by golly. Ike was in the White House and the world was safe for Americans and Wonder Bread and Ford Motors. Unfortunately these are also the same people who think that global warming is a hoax, birth control is a sin against God, and gay people are an abomination.

    Hmnnn…. Maybe letting them move to 1955-land is not such a bad idea. Keep your eyes peeled for men wearing fedoras.

    "Harrison’s (Playwright) depiction of the trivial and the profound unhappinesses that can bring even young, accomplished New Yorkers to the brink of breakdown is sharply drawn and funny."
    Charles Isherwood for New York Times

    "Slim but clever comedy "
    Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

    "Too often 'Maple and Vine' is dramatically inert."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "Funny and trenchant... a wickedly satiric and sympathetic portrait of 21st-century angst and the desire to escape into the past."
    David Sheward for Back Stage

    "An imaginative concept interestingly developed, some good writing and a well-acted production."
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

    "Darkly appealing fairy tale."
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Back Stage - Newsroom Jersey Variety