Saturday, April 05, 2014

Carpe Diem! Actor's Express does 1955.

How many of us fantasize about "simpler times", or long for a chance to live in the (perceived-to-be-kinder) past? For a few decades now, Americans have been told by mental health professionals, pop psychologists like Dr. Phil, and especially by that former queen of TV--Oprah Winfrey-- that we can "re-invent ourselves". That there is much dignity in discovering WHO we can be, by slipping into an as-yet untried persona, by getting "outside[our]comfort zone". But what if we could re-invent ourselves by living in a place where time means another time, where living day-to-day means shedding our former selves, and all the hurt we've accrued as a result of our painful, in-the-moment, living? The premise for escaping to a place where one can re-invent oneself, is at the white-hot center of a remarkable new play, Maple and Vine, currently running at Actor's Express. A young urban couple who are dealing with a recent trauma, make the leap to living in the 1950's--not generic 1950's --but 1955, to be exact. It's 1955, everyday, always. An enterprising group affords them an opportunity where they can be fully present, by living in the past. Playwright Jordan Harrison has fashioned a stylish, stylized 1955, complete with gleaming, grinning, happy-homemakers and their steadfast, blue-collar husbands, coming home to their crab-puff-making ("...I know crab is exotic, but....everything is better with cream cheese...")wives. Director Kate Warner has truly seized the day (and time!) by casting a terrific ensemble that, at a recent Sunday matinee', had us laughing until it hurt. The fun thing about actually living in the past, is that both husband Ryu, (a poignant Michael Sung-Ho) and wife Katha, (an effervescent Kate Donadio) get to create a new history for themselves. It's not all fun-and-games, though, as 1955 reveals itself (how soon we forget!) to be less inclusive-- a place where secrets are held, and there is a code of denial, when secrets aren't secret, any longer. The repression is real, and palpable. Stunning interactions between Ryu, Katha, and Dean, (John Benzinger, with acting chops as a sharp as a fully-loaded .45), Roger/Omar (a tender Jeremy Harrison), Ellen/Jenna (a vulnerable, revelatory Tiffany Morgan) make this a "must-do" theatre event. Special notice must be made of the lighting (Mike Post), sound (Joseph P. Monaghan III--the music is captivating, effectively setting the tone for the play), and scene design (Isabel A. and Moriah Curley-Clay)that literally feels like a window into this 1955-world. Costume designer Sydney Roberts appears to have had great fun with this; the costumes (think early-"Mad Men") will make you want to play dress-up . I plan to see the show again, and think organizing a dress-like-1955-night would be genius.(Hint, hint, marketing department at Actor's Express). Maple and Vine runs for two more weeks at Actor's Express. Box Office: (404)607-7469, or order tickets online, Please note this production contains brief nudity.

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