Friday, November 05, 2010

POW! (Play Of The Week)

by Lila Rose Kaplan

An ex-drag queen dying of cancer. A womanizing park ranger. A girl trying to be too mature for her own good, and a mother and son on the run. With a careful hand, Lila Rose Kaplan has nurtured a story of budding and dying relationships that both warms and chills and, ultimately, grows into a bloom worthy of the title. As surprising as the swatches of orange, purple and red that swathe a countryside, Wildflower is sure to stay with you long after your initial encounter.

It is rare that a play fools you. It is rarer still when a play fools you again. And shame on me for being fooled twice. Kaplan, however, deserves no shame for her deft handling of a beautifully unexpected story. Nor does she deserve shame for the simple way in which she paints these 5 wonderfully complex characters and relationships. The sparse language and honest actions hide a subtext that goes far deeper than one originally imagines, and touches a place where warmth, humor and danger mix dangerously close.

Seemingly as straightforward as a fresh-sprouted stalk, Wildflower begins as Erica and her son Randolph seek a new life as they run from ‘a very difficult man.’ Their haven is Crested Butte, Colorado, home of the annual Wildflower Festival. It is summer, a time of youth and magic, and Erica hopes to lose her past, while Randolph, an amateur botanist, gets lost in the flora. But as always, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

New places mean new people mean new problems. And new problems mean either new solutions or old results. Has this all happened before? Have we seen this ending? Maybe. Maybe not. Kaplan leaves us wondering if we’re seeing a fresh bouquet or a tiresome old wreath that gets trotted out for every occasion. And the not knowing is what makes this a play that sticks with you.

Kaplan has created an immense tragedy in a small town. The characters rich. The story full. A refreshing and heartbreaking journey. A trip worth taking.

Scenes: Teens (M/F); thirty-somethings (M/F); Teen (M) and 50’s African-American ex-drag queen

Reviewed by Ben G.


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