Allow me to answer a question posed in Colin McKenna’s The Secret Agenda of Trees: “What is the secret agenda of trees? Why do they claw so desperately at the sky?” Well, it’s a little thing I like to call “photosynthesis.” A more puzzling query might be: What is the secret agenda of The Secret Agenda of Trees? Why has this rather ridiculous script racked up so many playwriting awards and plaudits?
The play, chronicling varieties of domestic abuse, concerns Maggie (Lillian Wright), a slaughterhouse employee, and her teenage daughter, Veronica (Reyna de Courcy). Both evince spectacularly bad taste in men: Maggie falls for Jack, a drifter who wants to turn her home into a meth lab; Veronica longs for Carlos, a 15-year-old already sporting gang tattoos. McKenna crams the script with far too many plot elements, among them overdose, violent detox, frequent threats of violence, and an Iraq War death. He sometimes offers a touch of a poet, but too often relies on what sounds like a parody of redneck speech (Veronica’s opening line: “Heard a ruckus, thought it was them varmints again”). Despite Michael Kimmel’s capable production, I wouldn’t mind terribly if Trees were logged. Alexis Soloski
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 25, 2009