In an upcoming play, a psychic who could have changed the flow of history instead ends up fleeing from his home and beginning a new life.
“The Last of the Maple Leaves,” written and directed by Alcindor Leadon ’17, opens tonight at the Morse-Stiles Crescent Underground Theater. The play follows the story of an nontraditional family as they flee New York City in the days following the September 11th terrorist attacks. The central family, which consists of the protagonist Ashton and his children Holy and Saber-Blade, takes up residence in a cabin in rural Ontario and must learn to adapt to their new home. Wissem Gamra ’18, the show’s producer, said the play’s title refers to the children’s gradual loss of innocence over the course of the play.
“This play is mostly about how it’s getting harder [for kids] to mature in a healthy way as we go on from the ’80s and ’90s into this millennium,” Leadon said. “It’s definitely easier to lose your innocence faster and maturity is sometimes described as a good thing, but that maturity I’m talking about is experiencing loss and dissatisfaction.”
In the play, Ashton is a psychic who has a vision of the 9/11 attacks before they occur but chooses not to act on it. Throughout the play, Ashton is haunted by a feeling of guilt, Leadon noted. Jay Majumdar ’18, who plays the six-year old Saber-Blade, said that while his character is largely unfazed by the move to Canada, Saber-Blade’s brother Holy is angry at Ashton for having changed their lives so abruptly.
As the youngest character in the play, Saber-Blade experiences the largest loss of innocence, according to Majumdar. He added that Saber-Blade’s youth makes his emotional changes more amplified, which allows the audience to see a more dramatic shift in emotions over the course of the play.
“Because my character is so young, it’s an almost tangible loss of innocence,” Majumdar said. “When you have a younger character, it’s nice because the emotions can be magnified more. I’ll go from being happy all the time to going through mood swings.”
Ensemble members interviewed said that while the events of 9/11 set the play’s plot into motion, the attacks do not remain a dominant theme as the story progresses. Sean Sullivan ’17, who plays Holy, said that Ashton’s initial obsession with conspiracy theories and general distrust for the American government serve primarily to establish him as an eccentric character.
But Leadon said the trope has another purpose as an event that the children must learn to come to terms with emotionally.
“[9/11] comes through mostly in [Holy’s] unwillingness to confront his emotions about it,” Leadon said.
Despite the play’s apparent intensity, Majumdar emphasized the unexpected humorous elements that it employs, which are found in Ashton’s quirkiness as a character and his interactions with his children.
Sullivan echoed Majumdar’s sentiment, saying that moments where the awkwardness of being a teenager or being a dad come through give the play a funny edge.
“You can’t believe this dude exists. He’ll be saying swear words in front of his [young] son,” Majumdar said.
Each scene of the play takes place in the cabin and represents a month in the lives of the central family — a sequence presented by an onstage calendar that is updated with each scene. Gamra said he thinks the intimate setting of the Crescent Theater is well-suited to create the impression that viewers are actually inside the family’s cabin.