Monday, November 2, 2009

Redwood Curtain - by Lanford Wilson

Redwood Curtain
was first performed at Seattle Rep in 1992. It’s a three person play with three scenes and no intermission. It begins in the redwood forest outside of Arcata, CA. A man is urging his dog to kill an animal. A young Asian-American girl appears, she’s been watching him. He knows it. She talks to him, they wrestle a bit, he takes her wallet, she can control the elements. She is looking for her father, a Vietnam vet with mismatched eyes and an eagle tattoo. This man is a Vet, living in the woods, mismatched eyes and at the end of the scene she sees, an eagle tattoo.

The second scene is in the girl’s aunt’s car. She’s picked her up, is concerned and we learn that this girl’s been doing this a long time. We learn what’s truth and what’s lies about the girl. She is a piano prodigy, she was adopted by a wealthy family from a young Vietnamese girl who was paid $25,000. Her adopted father taught her and was depressive and drank. We learn that the aunt used to own a timber company that harvested the woods under guidelines approved by the Sierra Club, but she’s been bought out and the purchasers will cut down these 2500 year old trees. The scene shifts to the aunt’s home. The girl leaves for town. The man from the woods turns up and returns the wallet, all the money there – every picture and card examined and replaced. He departs.

The final scene is back in the woods and the truth of the girl’s parentage is revealed.

It’s such an elegant structure. Minimal characters, minimal scenes. An entire history – of the Vietnam war, the men damaged by it, the children left without fathers – is evoked as the backdrop and it provides this depth – along with the theme of corporate buy-outs of irreplaceable trees – that buoys up the simplicity of what we see at the surface. The iceberg theory of a play, its only 1/3 that we see. The rest is deep below the surface, signaling its magnitude with this little glimpse at the top.

Also, the back of the published play tells me that when this play opens on Broadway it will mark the fortieth production of Lanford Wilson’s to be directed by Marshall Mason. With that type of collaboration, does it allow him to trust his 1/3 at the top? To trust that the depths will be revealed by the director?

1 comment:

  1. I saw this play at The Annenburg Center at Penn in Philly in the early '90's. It was performed by The Philadelphia Drama Guild ( since defunct)and was fabulous!