By Ruth McCann Tuesday, May 4 2010
Milk is not a play about Harvey Milk—it’s about a small New England dairy farm in the 1980s. But don’t let that put you off. A New Georges–New Feet collaboration premiering at Here, directed by Jessica Bauman, Milk is rich, unexpected, and often enthrallingly vivid.
As big agro looms, the farm’s proprietors, Meg and Ben, find themselves cash-strapped, cabin-feverish, and flummoxed by their teenage son’s nascent rebelliousness. When James, a city-type with a private helicopter, offers to compensate the couple for the privilege of bringing his daughter to the farm to see how “real people live,” they can hardly afford to refuse. Values, aspirations, and wills collide; in the midst of it all, the world’s last wild cow begins appearing to Meg (the incredibly elegant Jordan Baker), urging her to be something of a wild bovine herself.
Milk suffers from a surfeit of genres; comedy, realism, and elegiac monologue share the stage with a talking heifer, which makes pacing tricky. And poetic introspection (infused with milk metaphors) gets laid on a bit thick. But put the excess material aside, and a dynamic story remains. Playwright Emily DeVoti has produced some perfect morsels of dialogue, vivifying characters who raise piercing questions about choice, consumption, death, domesticity, and the decidedly mixed virtues of the simple life.