A very liberal contemporary couple—Angel, an urban Native science fiction writer, and Colleen, a “non-practising” Jewish intellectual who teaches Native literature—hosts a dinner party. The guests at this little “sitcom” soirée are couples that represent what by now have become the clichéd extremes of both societies: Angel’s former radical Native activist buddies and Colleen’s environmentally concerned vegetarian / veterinarian friends. The menu is, of course, the hosts’ respectful attempt at shorthand for the irreconcilable cultural differences about to come to a head during the evening: moose roast and vegetarian lasagna.
Like all of Drew Hayden Taylor’s work, alterNatives manages to say things about “Whites and Indians” that one is not supposed to talk about—it digs up the carefully buried, raw and pulsing nerve-endings of the unspeakable and exposes them to the hot bright lights of the stage. That he does so with a humour that the politically correct among his audiences continue to miss entirely beneath the sound and fury of their own self-righteous indignation is a measure of his immense talent as a dramatist. In the end, the play is not about cultural differences at all, but instead constitutes a full frontal attack on the personal qualities the sitcom holds most dear and pushes hardest at its audiences: Taylor actually has the temerity to suggest that neither “attitude” nor “sincerity” are enough to address basic human issues, no matter which side of the cultural fence the characters are on. And that’s hard for the pushers of what is considered a globally enlightened culture to take.
Cast of 3 women and 3 men.