Redwood Plot Synopsis
September 26, 2019
Please note, this synopsis contains spoilers.
Baltimore, 2019. As a hip-hop dance class bumps and grooves away in the background, Stevie Durbin composes an email to his entire extended family. Stevie wants to let everyone know that he’s begun a genealogical odyssey on behalf of the whole clan: since their ancestry is rooted in American slavery, their roots are hard to trace but Stevie feels it is well worth the effort. And his initial research has uncovered the fact that there is a descendant of the Tatum family, who owned members of the Durbin family as slaves, alive and well and living in Baltimore today.
Stevie convinces the young Tatum, Drew, to meet for coffee to discuss their shared lineage. Drew is crushed by the revelation that he is descended from slave-owners. Things get even more complicated when they discover that Drew is the partner of Stevie’s niece, Meg Durbin; in fact, Meg and Drew have recently taken their relationship to a new level by moving in together. Realizing that it was his girlfriend’s family who were enslaved by his own, Drew leaves the café in an emotional hurry and doesn’t plan further contact with Stevie. The news causes a rift between Drew and Meg, who have a difficult conversation about the legacy of slavery and the ongoing oppression from the systemic racism that plagues Black Americans.
Meg and her mom Beverly have a close bond and laugh in shared confusion about Stevie’s fascination with online genealogy, while discovering that they have different opinions about making sense of their identities as American women of color.
The intensity of Stevie’s research frustrates his extended family members and, as they cut off contact, he tries to find community in a variety of dance and yoga classes. But he’s so out of place that he ends up even more alone. As Meg and Drew try to find a path forward, and as Stevie becomes in need of human connection, Beverly becomes the go-to person for keeping her family’s heads above water. Eventually, through a series of difficult but hilariously familiar family conversations, things start to get better, even after Beverly finally reveals that her marriage has fallen apart and she’s facing isolation and sadness of her own.
Drew confronts his father about their ancestry and it leads nowhere, but he attempts to face his awful family history and its impact on his present relationship. He and Meg reconcile, and in the end, they join Beverly and Stevie for a family night out. It seems they all know how difficult it will be to contextualize and overcome their shared history, but they will do the best they can to love and honor each other—as Americans, as human beings, and as a family who stays and laughs together. As the present-day characters set their eyes on the future, the ghosts of the Durbin ancestors take the stage and address the audience to ensure their own stories are neither whitewashed nor erased.