Maple and Vine – Jordan Harrison


First produced at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in March 2011; and had its New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons in December 2011.

Original Cast:

Katha  (mid to late 30s)                                                                  Kate Turnbull
Ryu (mid to late 30s)                                                                       Peter Kim
Dean (late 30s)                                                                               Paul Niebanck
Ellen/Jenna (late 30s.  Also plays Jenna)                                     Jeanine Serralles
Roger/Omar (mid to late 30s.  Also plays Omar)                         Jesse Pennington

Director:  Anne Kauffman
Scenic Design:
  Brian Sidney Bembridge
Costume Design:  Connie Furr Soloman
Lighting Design:  Jeff Nellis
Sound Design:  Benjamin Marcum
Properties Design:  Alice Baldwin
Stage Manager:  Melissa Rae Miller
Dramaturg:  Amy Wegener

Publication:  Harrison, Jordan. Maple and Vine. Samuel French. 2012.  Drama Library, PS3608. A78348 M37 2012

Setting:  There are many locations, both in the present and past

Language:  Contemporary


I think…people aren’t happy. People have never been happy. The whole idea is a tyranny. Slaves building the pyraminds…Serfs. They didn’t have enough time to ask “Am I happy?” This is not even a hundred-year-old idea: “Am I happy.”

Genre/Style:  Darkly comedic drama.

Plot:  A contemporary, professional couple decides to abandon their Manhattan lifestyle for a simpler existence right out the 1950s, 1955 to be exact, with a group of people who have recreated Eisenhower America somewhere in the Midwest, the SDO, the Society of Dynamic Obsolescence.  The play’s premise holds a lot of promise, however, it doesn’t satisfactorily deal with the various issues it raises.  Particularly interesting is a sub-plot involving two secondary characters who are far more interesting than the two lead characters.

Representative Monologues:  (Long mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.)

p.14:  Dean speaks about the difference between the modern world and the world of 1955. 


It wasn’t that the modern world was too fast, or too noisy. In a way, it was too quiet. Let me explain.  IN the 21st century, everything’s pretty easy, right? You have your thrive-thru espresso. Your drive-thru pharmacy. Or why go to the store when you can get it online? You hardly have to interact with anyone—except for all those people you’ve never en met who enter your life through our computer, pulling you every which way.

 [Lines cut]

In the modern world, I used to make it through half the day without talking to a single soul. I used to have it so easy. And now, looking back—I realize how lonely I was.

p.39:  Ellen explains her work on the Authenticity Committee.


We take our job very seriously on the Authenticity Committee.  It’s not just clothes and mimeograph machines—it’s about everyone’s emotional experience.  And the question we have to answer again and again is how far do you take it.

We have people from all walks of life in the SDO. And the question sometimes is how do we respond authentically to these people. [Lines cut] It can be complicated to navigate, but authenticity is very important to us.

p.74:  Roger responds after Ryu tries to blackmail him into putting him up for a raise by insinuating that he saw Roger and Dean kissing outside of his house.


Let me tell you about a heap of trouble, Ryu. See, I know you’re really a nice guy. And I know you wouldn’t want to do something to mess up your prospects here. Because I’ve been giving you the good word. I’ve seen lots of people come through here and nobody does well without the good word from the floor manager. Especially the non-whites. [Lines cut] So why don’t you keep your head down and do your work and eat your fucking bologna. See you later.


Representative Scenes:

p.43-44:  Ryu and Katha are discussing what to do if they decide they need to talk about the 21st century while living in the past. Starts with


What if we had a Safe Word.

and ends with


I like Ike!

I like Ike!

I like Ike!

I like Ike!

p.95-96:  Ryu and Kathy are now the leading couple in town.  Starts with

(RYU speaks out.  KATHY stands farther off, enormously pregnant now.)


First of all, welcome.  Welcome to the SDO.

and ends with


(hand to her belly) The present.


Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism:  (Note:  article title links are to the online versions, mostly UW-only restricted unless designated as open access.)

Carter, A. T. (2012, Oct 22). ‘Maple and vine’s’ sentimental journey doesn’t lead where expected. Tribune – Review / Pittsburgh Tribune – Review. (Review of Pittsburgh production)

Cox, G. (2011). Trio of shows shines at Humana fest. Variety, 422(10), 23. (Review of production at the Humana Festival)

D’Souza, K. (2012, Apr 12). Unplug at ‘maple and vine’. Contra Costa Times, p. T.20.  (Review of San Francisco production at ACT)

Isherwood, C. (2011, Dec 08). Exchanging lattes for an ‘ozzie and harriet’ world. New York Times, p. C.1. (Review of NY production at Playwrights Horizons)

Kennedy, L. (2013, Jan 11). Curious theatre wrestles with nostalgia at “maple and vine”. Denver Post, p. C6. (Review of Denver production)

Kennedy, L. (2013, Jan 18). Darkly fun “maple and vine” sends modern pair to 1955. Denver Post, p. C12. (Review of Denver production)

Maple and Vine. (2011). Daily Variety, 313(47), 3. (Review of NY production at Playwrights Horizons)

SHEWARD, D. (2011). Less Is More at Louisville. Back Stage, 52(15), 12-13. (Review of production at the Humana Festival)

SHEWARD, D. (2011). Maple and Vine at Playwrights Horizons. Back Stage, 52(50), 40-41. (Review of NY production at Playwrights Horizons)

Soloski, A. (2011, Sep 07). Fall arts: Playwright jordan harrison’s simple plan: “maple and vine”. The Village Voice. [open access] (Review of NY production at Playwrights Horizons)

Vincentelli, E. (2011, Dec 08). An era-neous take on 1950s. New York Post,p. 61. (Review of NY production at Playwrights Horizons)

Weinert-Kendt, R. (2011, Nov 27). Back to the ’50s, trying to escape freedom’s pitfalls. New York Times, p. AR.4. (Review of NY production at Playwrights Horizons)