(Chris Jones, Theater Loop, Chicago Tribune) If you have ever arrived home looking for affection and found a partner hunched over a laptop, or if you’ve been tracked down after hours by a boss who controls your smartphone and your life, then you might find the premise of “Maple and Vine” very enticing. In this new play by Jordan Harrison — a hit at the Humana Festival in Louisville earlier this year and now in a Chicago-area premiere at the Next Theatre of Evanston — a pair of stressed-out urban professionals decide to pack it all in and go back to the 1950s.
Thankfully, this does not involve time travel. Rather, the burned-out New Yorkers Katha (who is in publishing) and Ryu (a plastic surgeon) merely take advantage of an invitation to join a voluntary community in some unspecified Midwest locale where all of the residents act like it’s always 1955. There’s a lot of smoking and drinking — although the vodka must be Smirnoff rather than Grey Goose. The women tend house and volunteer. The men come home at 5 p.m. to a cooked meal on the table. There are neither computers nor synthetic fabrics. Conversation is prized, as are party games. People both judge and take care of each other.