Hearts of Palm

Hearts of Palm (4w, 1m) follows the personal ethical crises that play out among a group of United States land negotiators intent on expanding a Southeast Asian palm oil plantation. Relaxed safety standards, nonexistent environmental regulations, and dirt-cheap labor – these are the qualities that attracted Empire Holdings to the island of Marititu. Idealistic Empire negotiator Vi Wells is faced with what seems like an impossible choice: close a land purchase that will destroy the habitat of endangered orangutans, or, procure a tract that’s home to indigenous families – forcing them to relocate from their ancestral land.

When another negotiator quits Empire and “goes rogue” to join local rebels fighting the deal, Vi must match wits with a Marititu negotiator who seems to have only her own interests at heart. Over the course of a chaotic and difficult negotiation, Vi finds herself unable to support the unprincipled stance of her colleagues. She must decide if she will cooperate, quit, negotiate her way out of the deal, or find another solution entirely.

The play satirizes and subverts several well-worn tropes, including unrequited love, “white savior” complex, and the notion that “women don’t know how to negotiate,” popularized in Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. Against a backdrop of larger issues, the play looks at Vi’s dilemmas: being forced to choose between her personal ethics and the interests of her employer, and navigating a workplace freighted with gender bias.

World Premiere, Central Works, Berkeley, CA, July 16-August 21, 2016 (extended!), directed by Gary Graves.

Script download available at the New Play Exchange.

Watch the trailer!

Photo Gallery: all photos by Jim Norrena, ACT OUT Photography. Photo of Michelle Talgarow as Ni Bethu also by Jim Norrena.

Hearts of Palm is a “wildly funny satire … Milton’s script is surprisingly sophisticated.” – Charles Kruger, therumpus.net, Notable San Francisco

“As seen in her previous award-winning play and other works, Milton is a pro at blending painfully direct and on-point social and/or political commentary with comedy and relatable characters—making for a must-see show!” Kim Cohan, Theatre Bay Area

“Fear not; Milton leaves no would-be white savior unquestioned — or unscathed.” — Lily Janiak, SFGate