Katha lies awake in bed, unable to fall back asleep. The screech of cars, their loud neighbors, the soft rush of the sound of nature (must-haves for all insomniacs) echo in the small theater at Playwrights Horizons and Katha, played by the vivid Marin Ireland, lies awake in the middle of this all, unable to go back to sleep. Maple and Vine, written by Jordan Harrison and directed by Anne Kauffman, follows the life of a burnt-out editor at a publishing house who had recently suffered a miscarriage. She moves through her normal life as if in a dream, awkwardly acting out the motions of modern day domestic life with her husband, Ryu (Peter Kim), a soft-spoken plastic surgeon.
But a chance meeting with Dean, portrayed by a smart Trent Dawson, a sharply dressed man speaking in a clipped Mid-Atlantic accent straight from Mad Men, brings color back into Katha’s cheeks. The Society for Dynamic Obsolescence, Dean describes, is a community of people just like himself who have chosen to faithfully reproduce life from the fifties; specifically, 1955. Simpler times, Dean and his wife, Ellen (Jeanine Serralles) describe, walking amidst the audience as if giving one of their presentations on the SDO. In their gated community, life is simple. Milk is delivered straight to the door, wives know their place (at home), men are real men and most importantly, there is no advanced technology. No iPads, no cellphones, no Internet or computers or any of the hallmarks of modern life.
Katha convinces her husband, Ryu, to try this out for a trial period and they enter a world defined by the Mason-Dixon line, mid century sentiments and rules of conformity; in an effort to keep the experience ‘authentic’ any mentions of the present day or anything following 1955 is forbidden (including the Civil Rights Act), but scandal and political intrigue still lurk in the shadows of this seemingly-benign community. Expertly juggling the tricky issues of race and sexuality, modern day versus nostalgia, Maple and Vine cleverly captures the appeal of the current Mad Men craze and parodies it all in one. Whether in 2011 or 1955, whether there are cellphones or iPads or just simple radios and black and white televisions, life goes on, just as complicated as it always has been.