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Drama 101 - the Halcyon Days at the Maple and Vine

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Louisa Sukanta

TA: Alice Hofgren

Drama 101, Section AD

February 19, 2017

The Halcyon Days at the Maple and Vine

It is a strange paradox that although the world is integrating and everything is getting more accessible, people seem to feel more disconnected with each other. People spend hours staring at a rectangular screen, scrutinizing other people’s lives at social media. Everything can be reached with a push of a button and the longest distance is only one call away. Maple and Vine by Jordan Harrison is a play that portrays this predicament of living in the 21st century and people’s longing to get back to the idyllic, traditional lifestyle, specifically in the 1955. This play took place at the Floyed and Delores Jones Playhouse, produced by the University of Washington School of Drama. The story lies around a couple in their mid-thirties, Katha and Ryu, who are living their busy life in Manhattan.

Ryu’s character is performed by a Japanese-American actor, Josh Kenji Langager. He has a pretty sturdy figure, being almost 6 feet tall and charming. Langager’s voice is assertive, clear yet very gentle. This matches with Ryu’s image, which seem to be a gallant and charismatic husband. Ryu constantly listens to Katha’s rants without complaining, trying to give her as much affection to soothe her depression. It’s obvious that he puts Katha on his top priority, for instance, he willingly brushes off his skepticism towards the Society of Dynamic Obsolesence (SDO) because he cherishes Katha’s happiness. Ryu’s endearing character is displayed in  Langager’s gestures of affection towards Katha, as shown in the first scene when he hugs and calms Katha when she got agitated from her insomnia. Overall, Langager performed a remarkably fitting portrayal of Ryu.

In this play, Ryu doesn’t seem to have any substantial relationship besides the one he has with his wife. At one point, he seem to have an amicable relationship with Roger, his boss at the SDO. However, the relationship deteriorates after Ryu decides to blackmail him to get a promotion. Roger has also mentioned a couple racial slurs to Ryu, which results in their hostility towards each other. Ryu also doesn’t seem to make any effort of befriending other people in SDO. In contrast to Katha’s enthusiasm to get involved in the committee and support Ellen, Ryu’s engagement in the community is quite low. This may be due to the fact that Ryu is considered oriental while there is an immense anti Japenese sentiment existing in the 1950s.

Ryu’s objective in this play is finding his happiness. After the miscarriage, the couple suffers from the fear of losing something that is significant to them. They keep having arguments in addition to their monotonous life. On top of that, Ryu’s job as a plastic surgeon appear to be very tedious and time consuming. It gets to the point that the word happiness feels so foreign to Ryu:

RYU. I think…people aren’t happy. People have never been happy. The whole idea is a tyranny. Slaves building the pyramids…Serfs. They didn’t have enough time to ask “Am I happy?” This is not even a hundred-year-old idea: “Am I happy.” (8)

Although Ryu’s happiness  seem to be only centered around Katha, he gradually finds his own happiness as the play progresses. Things only get better once the couple moved to the SDO. Smaller accomplishments are acheieved along with the bigger ones. Katha and Ryu have deeper and more interesting conversations, in contrast to their monotonous ones before SDO. They have things to anticipate in the future, and what makes Ryu even more ecstatic is Katha’s willingness to raise a child.  

Ryu eventually enjoys the ambience of the 1950s, the life with no technology, sushi or drive-thru. It shows him the feeling of being liberated from the tiring job and the hustle and bustle of the big city. Although he fretted wasting his comfortable life and his laborious effort to graduate from medical school, Ryu end up accepting this new lifestyle ungrudgingly. His new job taping boxes seem to give him the tranquility he couldn’t get from any job in the real world.

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