Review: "Seeds" at Utopia Theater Project

Jordan Nickels

When soldiers returned home from World War II, many protected their families and loved ones from what they experienced on the battlefield. However, in Anne Yumi Kobori’s new play Seeds, these secrets haunt these soldiers, as they attempt to readapt to life after the war.

Seeds follows stories across three countries; a flirtatious young French couple who teeter with the idea of love, an English soldier embracing his homosexuality, and an American couple in a love triangle with the soldier’s best friend.  These characters are connected by a terrible secret held by the three soldiers while on leave in France, affecting their relationships and their own sanity.

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This play had many compelling characters, but their stories were too detached from each other to server the overall connection of the three soldiers’ secret. The scenes felt short, and we didn’t get the full sense of the character’s associations until the end of the play. Moments like Matt handing Carolyn a handkerchief, which belonged to Masha, was a subtle, yet helpful connection. More moments like this would have provided more context and a better through line for the audience.

Some moments didn’t make sense within the play. Masha and Robert’s timeline was very confusing, unfortunate being that Masha is central to the main conflict. Carolyn’s cheating was seemingly out of character for such a loving, caring wife. Most unbelievable was Thom coming out to his mother and Emma in 1940s England, at the time when homosexuality was illegal and most men stayed in the closet for fear of being arrested. Thom’s coming out story modeled most stories we hear of contemporary LGBT teens, and it doesn’t fit the time period this play is set in.

However, despite these issues, the overall themes presented in this play resonated well with the audience. I was pleased with the relationship between Thom and Corey, as it was a great representation of LGBT characters. They had a complex and intimate relationship that is hard to find in most contemporary plays between two gay characters, their age gap making the relationship even more interesting.

With this play set in the 1940s and 50s, normally a boys club in a play about war and soldiers, I was pleasantly surprised to see the female characters shine take charge, all in unique ways in their relationship with the three soldiers. Underlying this brought up an examination into toxic masculinity, shown through Thom’s drinking stemming from his father, and other issues of rage, asserted dominance, and sexual assault.

A major theme highlighted in Seeds was the issue of PTSD from war. I classify this play in a small category of other works, like George Brant’s Grounded, that accurately depict PTSD in soldiers and their families inability to handle that trauma. The characters repeatedly said “it’s over now,” hinting that the war is behind them, and what these soldiers did during that time should be left on the battlefield. The 1940s and 50s led into the American dream of the “white picket fence” period, which didn’t prioritize the mental health of men who returned home from war and the horrors they experienced. Seeds showed us PTSD is not an affliction we can just “move on and forget,” and the consequences of war must be processed and resolved.

This play has a long way to go in terms of development, but Seeds tackles many important issues that makes this budding new work worth experiencing. Seeds runs on Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm at PianoFight Bar through March 24th.

Jordan Nickels is a playwright and dramaturg, originally from the Midwest, with a Bachelor of Science in Theatrical Studies from Ball State University. He previously worked with Nashville Children’s Theatre, Goodspeed Opera House, Florida Studio Theatre, and The Walt Disney Company. He also served as a Blog Contributor and Managing Editor for over two years at Camp Broadway in New York City. Jordan currently resides in San Francisco, CA and works as a Development Assistant at American Conservatory Theater. Website: http://www.jordannickels.com, Twitter and Instagram: @jnickels8.