A blast from the past

Maple & Vine

“What’s the name of this green thing again?”

“What’s the name of this green thing again?”

Photo by Kevin Adamski

Maple & Vine, 7 p.m. Wednesday; 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; $22-$38. Capital Stage, 2215 J Street; (916) 995-5464; www.capstage.org. Through July 20.
Rated 4.0

Loved the production, had some problems with the story: That about sums up my thoughts on Maple & Vine, a dark fantasia of satire, nostalgia and melodrama now being performed at Capital Stage.

Katha (Stephanie Gularte) and Ryu (Wayne Lee) are a modern power couple. She is an editor at Random House, he's an in-demand plastic surgeon who gives girls boobs and fixes noses. But they are unfulfilled, unable to get their lives back on track six months after a pregnancy ended tragically. Enter Dean (Jason Heil), a charismatic man from something called the SDO, the Society of Dynamic Obsolescence. It's a community of 1950s re-enactors, people who choose to live today as if it were 1955, adhering to the clothing, language and mores of that time. There's even an “authenticity committee” to ensure it.

Before long, Katha, now known as Kathy, and Ryu (despite their being a “mixed-race” couple) have joined Dean and his wife Ellen (Shannon Mahoney) in the nice neighborhood of SDO's gated community. Ryu is given a job in the box factory, but he senses something is a little off with the floor manager, Roger (Ryan Snyder). When he sees Roger and Dean together, he deduces—as the audience already has—the nature of their relationship.

The conceit of parallel universes in which the “past” coexists with the present is intriguing. But who you are is who you are, no matter when you are. The '50s may have been a simpler time, but secrets and lies exist in all decades. Even when you've suspended disbelief, several plot points, when you think about them, become increasingly harder to believe. Also, how did the 1956 novel Peyton Place become the hot read of 1955 SDO?

The real authenticity committee here is the cast and crew. You cannot fault the production. The actors are totally committed, inhabiting scenic designer Stephen C. Jones' perfect set and wearing costume designer Rebecca Redmond's fashions. Jones and Redmond got clothes, colors, furnishings and fittings just right. Director Peter Mohrmann keeps a sleek pace, making it not only possible, but easy, to overlook script flaws and just enjoy.