Next Theatre Company
Maple and Vine will have many a viewer “chanting ‘I Like Ike’” at one moment and hoping for a ticket back to 2011 the next, said Hedy Weiss in the Chicago Sun-Times. Jordan Harrison’s “exceptionally clever play” about the lures and pitfalls of nostalgia concerns a Manhattan couple who seek refuge from their overstressed lives by moving to the Midwest and taking up residence in a full-time 1950s re-enactment community. Not only are Katha (Molly Glynn) and Ryu (Peter Sipla) forbidden access to 21st-century technology; they’re required, like all the community’s residents, to exhibit pre-1960 attitudes toward gender, sexuality, and race. Still, while “secrets, decorum, repression, and hypocrisy are all part of the 1950s casserole,” the town exhibits a level of community spirit that no longer exists today.
“The play is at its best when it makes you really think about whether everything in the modern world represents progress,” said Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune. Harrison’s premise should resonate with anyone who, even while abhorring the injustices and double standards of the ’50s, longs for simpler times. The script sometimes slips into boilerplate Pleasantville-style parody, and it remains a mystery why Ryu, who is half Japanese, would want to join a community in which other members are obliged to stare at him and make ignorantly racist comments. Still, Harrison grounds his fantasy world in a simple truth—that “striving for simplicity and community is a lot more complicated than just going back in time.”