In a Garden
by Howard Korder
directed by David Warren
originally produced at South Coast Repertory ,
Costa Mesa, CA.
through March 28, 2010
Howard Korder’s new play, In a Garden, continues his career-long fascination with American identity, this time in the context of international relations. The play begins in 1989 with the first meeting between Othman, the Culture Minister of a fictional Middle Eastern nation, and Hackett, an ambitious but unheralded American architect who has arrived with the expectation of receiving his first major international commission. Disappointed to learn that he’s being asked to design a glorified gazebo for the minister’s garden, Hackett grudgingly accepts the job and begins work on the plans. In a series of scenes traversing fifteen years, Hackett persistently tries to navigate his client’s Byzantine psychology and the internecine political minefield that is Othman’s nation, in order to realize the project for which he has been contracted. A microcosmic précis of changing Arab-American relations in the years before and after 9/11, In a Garden plays as an absorbing contest of wills and wits between two men who pursue very different priorities but who occupy similar positions within a power structure that uses them both as pawns.
A leading playwright of his generation, Howard Korder has become one of SCR’s core writers over the course of a relationship that dates back to 1985. SCR presented astaged reading of Korder’s In a Garden to kick off our Pacific Playwrights Festival this May – and it was a resounding success. Local audiences and industry guests from across the nation were captivated by Korder’s nuanced political drama and the masterful performances, led by Mark Harelik as Othman. Among the play’s notable accomplishments is the way it uses the developing relationship between Othman and Hackett to evoke the story of American involvement in the Middle East over crucial a fifteen year period, during which our nation --which prefers to think of itself as an “architect” of freedom, democracy and progress -- has been forced to re-evaluate its role in international affairs. Korder manages to achieve a sense of epic scale in a drama played by three actors, to entertain the largest of ideas without betraying the detailed characterizations that make his play so compelling.
Tom and Marilyn Sutton, Honorary Producers