This is also a play so seemingly at odds with the global trade Zeitgeist—the harried rush to tear down any obstacle to free markets—that it might seem to some a queer piece of 1920s-era nostalgia.

"It is kind of a seppuku on his part," Patch said, "spending so much energy on a play that 95 percent of American theaters won't touch."

And that's the ultimate irony of The Hollow Lands. This is a play driven by ambition and hubris, and only a writer with a degree of both would dare write it. But Korder is, after all, an American who writes great American plays—even if the people he's writing for find them difficult to digest.

"He's definitely a product of the kind of society he's writing about," said Harelik, a playwright himself. "He's a true American writer with a wild American energy. And his school is bite-the-hand-that-feeds-him."

Four centuries into America, Patch speculates, "maybe we've reached a point where playwrights like Korder can now do what Shakespeare and his contemporaries were doing: looking back into history and writing plays that take something on its own historical merits but also see the resonance for contemporary times."

But why now? Why did someone like Korder—without warning—suddenly erupt with The Hollow Lands? Patch has an answer, one that echoes Turner's frontier thesis: the transformation of individuals in the old frontier is evident today in the conquest of a new one. "There's a revolution going on," Patch said, "a complete informational revolution, and the cyber resources out there are as vast and unknowable as the American West used to be. That's where the money is."

The Hollow Lands at South Coast Repertory's Mainstage, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555. Previews Fri.-Thurs., Jan. 13. Opening night Jan. 14. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m. Through Feb. 13. $18-$37 for previews; $28-$47 regular run. Pay-what-you-will performance ($5 suggested minimum) Sat., Jan. 15, 2:30 p.m.

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