Katha is a publishing professional, and her husband Ryu is an affluent doctor. But their life is stressful, and they’ve wearied of their wireless devices, and staying connected 24/7.
Then they meet a charismatic stranger who tells them about an intentional, gated community that recreates the lifestyle of a bygone era.
“In the 50s, you have to go places. You have to talk to people. You pick up phone to make a call, and there’s an operator on the other end. Or say you want to find something out. You go down to the library, and Miss Wilkes looks it up in the Dewey Decimals. There is a separate store for meat, fish and fruit…”
The couple decides to try the slower pace and societal certainties of the past – at least, for a six month trial period, and they move in. Of course, there are tradeoffs. There’s little news from outside. Women are expected to be full-time homemakers and prepare dinner – things like pigs-in-blankets and potato salad. Every conceivable custom of the era is researched by an Authenticity Committee. Family planning? Forget it. And Katha and Ryu face special challenges, since she’s white, and he’s Japanese American. The housewife who chairs the Authenticity Committee has a plan:
“We have a Japanese-American fella moving in right now. And it’s interesting, what the research tells us, what we have by 1955 is already a kind of counter-prejudice. People have started to feel a little uncomfortable that American citizens were interned during the war. So prejudice might not look like ‘Get out of my neighborhood,’ it might look more like ‘Here, I baked you some cookies, neighbor.’”
Of course, as with any reclusive group with numerous rules and restrictions, this intentional community has a certain dystopian downside – which comes into focus as the plot develops in the show’s second half.
“Maple and Vine” provides a fascinating look into our collective past -- an era which sometimes feels comfy and familiar, and other times kind of creepy. There’s strong acting from Capital Stage regulars Stephanie Gularte and Shannon Mahoney, and newcomer Jason Heil as the community’s eerily persuasive pitch man, dressed in classic 1950s business attire. The show’s period props and music gently reinforce the texture of the era. But remember – revisiting the past is never as easy as you think.
“Maple and Vine” continues at Sacramento’s Capital Stage through July 20th.