Orange County Theatre Reviews

Maple-009

Actor James McHale plays Roger/Omar

photos by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

Have you ever had a conversation with a schoolmate or a friend that focused on the possibility of living at another time? This question is thoroughly and enjoyably explored in Jordan Harrison’s Maple and Vine.

The story follows a husband and wife, Ryu and Katha. Briefly put, the two are unhappy with the current state of their lives. Work is unpleasant, life is noisy, marital relations are virtually nonexistent, and they aren’t happy. So in the pursuit of a happier existence, they join an enclosed community of people who live, eat, work, talk, dress, and overall behave as though they were eternally in 1955. It’s an interesting premise, carried out in a fairly interesting way. I found myself invested in the story. I cared about what happened to these people. And they managed to touch on all the issues that would occur to most people considering such an excursion–not just the benefits of technological advancements but what kind of social environment one would be subjected to? Would a person be forced to give us certain morals? Political ideologies? Would one necessarily be “happier” in such a life? Or are we meant to search for happiness, no matter what time period we are in?

Maple-003

Actress Jennifer Ruckman plays Katha.

It is a thought-provoking story. Not just for the resurrection of the “when would you live if you could live anywhere” question that my friends and I discussed at lunchtime in middle school, but I think if it makes even one person recommit to the idea that human interaction is beneficial to eternity on a cell phone, I’ll consider it a success. At the same time, it acknowledges the progress we’ve made. I don’t think any stone is unturned here, which is why it works so well. There aren’t any actual “plot holes,” so to speak. Perhaps questions are not wholly resolved by the end, but I don’t think it’s in any way damaged for that.

The acting was decent, with everyone getting their points across fairly well. There was a time during the first part when Katha spoke in a consistent tone stressing every word in precisely the same way. We’re supposed to accept this as a character trait exhibiting just how unchanging and depressing her life is. Still, it just comes across as though they don’t understand the idea of emoting or the possibility of changing inflections for different sentences. Katha’s ability to speak like a human being blossoms in Act II, and suddenly she is much more tolerable as a character.

Other than my problem with Katha during her modern-day mode, the acting in the show is reasonably solid and convincing.   My favorite was Ryu, simply because I like that character the most, but there are a few other colorful individuals to choose from. The set design is fine, with good use of color. Again, the best part of this show is simply the conversation starters that pop up throughout. It’s thought-provoking and entertaining. I wish I could recommend it to any group, but some strong language might not go over well if you bring a kid. Still, I think kids would understand the technological and social benefits of such an experiment undertaken in Maple and Vine.

8/10

Buy tickets here:
http://chancetheater.com/production/maple-vine/

Date & Location :
September 19, 2014 — October 19, 2014

Chance Theater
5522 E. La Palma Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92807

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