Frank Theater explores escapism in “Maple and Vine”

“Maple and Vine” questions whether the grass is really greener in the good old days by dissecting a couple’s initiation into a 1950s themed cult.

Sherwin Resurreccion and Tessa Flynn rehearse for the premier area production of

Chelsea Gortmaker

Sherwin Resurreccion and Tessa Flynn rehearse for the premier area production of “Maple and Vine” at the Old Arizona Theater in Minneapolis on Tuesday evening. “Maple and Vine” follows a couple who give up their modern Manhattan lifestyle to join the Society of Dynamic Obsolescence, a cult-like group of people who have recreated the 1950s era.

Joe Kellen

1955 and 2013. Two eras that don’t jive, unless you’re in Frank Theater’s production of “Maple and Vine.”

Jordan Harrison’s play deals with a couple dissatisfied by the fast-paced modern world. With hopes for a less complicated life, the two decide to join a cult whose goal is to recreate 1955 for eternity.

Director Wendy Knox’s assistant, Chris Garza, said they took pains to make sure that the fifties and the present become difficult to separate.

“We have two end tables, a modern one and one from the 1950s,” he said. “They kind of mirror one another.”

The couple, Ryu and Katha, trade in lattes and urban condominiums for the SDO — the Society of Dynamic Obsolescence.

It’s a cozy community placed in an undisclosed location in the Midwest. When Katha reaches her breaking point, after a miscarriage and too much time spent in an unfulfilling publishing job, she meets Dean, a well-dressed stranger who’s behind the SDO.

Katha’s intrigued by the escapist colony and convinces Ryu to go with her down the rabbit hole. So, they adopt 1950s characters and leave reality behind.

What follows is a transformative, dark experience for the two of them. They find simpler lives, yes, but sexual, social and racial repression follows.

Harrison cleverly uses Katha and Ryu’s journey to question whether these boundaries lead to happiness or not.

“When you’re in the 1955 world, you have to be authentic,” Knox said. Garza was quick to add that these people are aware that it’s 2013 — they just won’t acknowledge it.

“They’re playing dress-up,” he said.

This gives the actors a complex job. David Beukema said that portraying a character that’s attempting to portray a character makes for an interesting challenge.

“They’re nostalgic for something that may have never existed,” he said.

 Beukema said that there are times when it’s difficult to figure out what’s really happening in a scene. Since the cult members aren’t allowed to break from their personas, there’s a great deal of doublespeak.

“You look at the dialogue and you have to ask whether or not it’s a straight conversation or something else,” Knox said.

It’s a play that has a lot of layers, which is exactly what Knox wants.

“We want them to leave the theater with other questions than, ‘where should we go out to eat?’”***** she said.

If the play does its job, there’ll be more questions about society as a whole than three-martini lunches and “Mad Men.”

 

What: “Maple and Vine”
When: 8 p.m., Oct. 11-27;Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sundays
Where: Old Arizona, 2821 Nicollet Ave. S, Minneapolis
Cost: $15-22