There's a term used in New York to describe a certain type of businessman: the $50 million man. It's a criticism, not a compliment, and denotes someone who, despite smarts and looks, hasn't rocketed into the realms of the super-rich and may never do so.
Playwright Arthur Meek says his latest creation, William Campbell (played by Michael Hurst), is such a man but when the investment banker returns home from New York to Central Otago - as he does in Trees Beneath the Lake - he's the proverbial big fish in a small pond.
"What motivated the play was, in part, this idea about how we never really know what someone has done overseas," says Meek, who wrote Auckland Theatre Company's longest running touring show, On the Upside Down of the World.
"I see people coming back from an OE and there's something about that which makes people here automatically trust them more or believe that somehow they are better qualified to do a certain job, but you can take your achievements and present them in a way which makes them look far better than they actually were."
It's almost paradoxical he wrote much of the play while living in New York during his Harriet Friedlander New York Residency, an award he collected in 2012.
Meek left New Zealand with Trees Beneath the Lake well into development.
Being in New York helped clarify aspects of the characters, namely William, and immersed Meek in the fast-paced, cut-throat and densely populated environment that William and his family have supposedly spent time in.
"I thought I knew what it was to be rich. But this was a whole other level; a world where people take helicopters to work and employ vast numbers of staff at home. Just working hard doesn't necessarily mean you'll ever get to move into that class. I also had to learn to love William."
Back home, William has a Serious Fraud Office investigation hanging over him and this circumstance collides head-on with the past, when the Campbell family lost its battle to stop the Clyde Dam engulfing its orchard.
His mother, Nieve (Catherine Wilkin), is still bitter about that, but Meek says the guts of the story are about what happens when the person you love and trust most is a bigger threat than "the government".
Although his most successful play, On the Upside Down of the World, was a one-person show looking at New Zealand's past, Trees Beneath the Lake is more epic in scope. Central Otago's landscape is almost a character in its own right.
"It's beautiful but there's something running underneath it which makes it dangerous."
Trees Beneath the Lake is also ambitious. Meek wants the intergenerational drama to prompt more probing discussions about our collective standards and whether the values we're meant to hold dear - equal opportunity and transparency - are really prevalent. Given recent political revelations, that is highly relevant.
"It would be silly to go into this play thinking it was about present day political figures, and it's certainly not an anti-capitalism or anti-money play.
"Yes, it's playing close to the election and that's a good time to be asking where we want our country to go. I think theatre is able to do this very well."
Trees Beneath the Lake also stars Theresa Healey, Brooke Williams, Peter Hayden and Leighton Stitchbury.