Friday, November 25, 2011

Maple and Vine **

The intriguing premise of Jordan Harrison's new work at Playwrights Horizons is the existence of the Society of Dynamic Obsolescence, a group that has created a community where it's always 1955. The reenactors who have moved there are fleeing the burdensome freedoms of 21st-century America for a place and time where roles may be clearly defined, choices limited, secrets hidden, repression prevalent and prejudice rampant, but where there is a stronger sense of community than now. Katha (Marin Ireland), a harried book editor, and Ryu (Peter Kim), her Japanese-American husband unhappy in his career as a plastic surgeon, are recruited for a six-month trial stay by Dean (Trent Dawson) and his wife Ellen (Jeanine Serralles), a seemingly perfect 1950's couple. Omar, Katha's gay office mate in the present, and Roger, Ryu's mercurial boss in 1955, are both played by Pedro Pascal. Serrales doubles as a worker in Katha's office. The play's premise is elaborated in many short scenes, leading to an ending that is a bit pat. The set, by Alexander Dodge, is a technical marvel: the center section of the stage disappears into the floor several times and comes up with a new set on it. Smaller modular sets are pushed around by a crew of four. Frankly, I found all the set changing a distraction. Both side aisles of the theater are used for several scenes. If you are seated in the first five or six rows, you risk whiplash spinning around trying to find the actors. I think director Anne Kauffman could have found a better solution. Ilona Somogyi's period costumes are wonderful. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes including intermission.

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