Sunday, April 25, 2010


‘THINGS OF DRY HOURS’ makes for long sit at CPT

On the surface, ‘THINGS OF DRY HOURS,’ which is getting its area premiere at Cleveland Public Theatre, would appear to be an interesting play. It is billed as the seldom told story of black membership in the Communist Party in the Depression-era South and an exploration of the dangerous price of personal integrity.

The storyline centers on Tice Hogan, an African American out-of-work Sunday school teacher who spends time volunteering at a park being built for white children, where he spreads the word of the gospel of Communism. His daughter Cali takes in washing from the rich white people to help meet expenses. Their lives get turned upside down when they take-in Corbin Tell, a white factory worker, who tells them he has killed someone and is on the run.
It is a promising subject, but the writing by Naomi Wallace is so static and lifeless that the two-act play becomes tedious. It reads more like a well-researched doctoral dissertation than a play. There is no real action, even the conflicts are civil, never providing much depth of character interaction. And, the ending, which should have been a shocker, isn’t, due to the exposition format in which it is presented.

Unfortunately, the CPT production doesn’t help matters. Director Sarah May’s blocking is excellent and she has a grasp of the story, but can’t fight the writing and her cast’s problems. Larry Arrington-Bay (Tice) stumbled over lines, forgot some and mumbled through others. This slowed down the already turtle’s pace of the language and detracted from what, at times, was a clear characterization. Andrea Belser (Cali) stayed on the surface, never developing a depth of character. Her lines were often flat, emotionless, never revealing the seething passion and hurt within her. Only Curtis L. Young (Corbin) was animated and had the right edge to give the audience a clue that he wasn’t what he said he was.

Young’s set design was excellent. The fragmented house placed the material in its proper setting. His lighting design was also productive. Richard Ingraham’s foreboding music gave more tension than the script offered.

Be aware that the staging contains full male nudity.

Capsule judgement: Let’s hope that as the play runs, lines will be learned and characterizations more completely developed. It’s not going to help the bland writing, but, at least, it will make the sit shorter.