Friday, May 29, 2009

Things of Dry Hours

"Things of Dry Hours" at New York Theatre Workshop, May 29, 2009

Writing a play about a political concept can be quite a challenge. Naomi Wallace's Things of Dry Hours is at times sadly like its title and at other times a compelling look at people searching. Tice Hogan, (Delroy Lindo) an unemployed Sunday School teacher and member of the Communist Party in Alabama in 1932 is widowed, living with his also widowed daughter Cali (Roslyn Ruff). She cynically doesn't share his political hope that Communism could right the wrongs of the south during the Depression Era, working as a laundress for the rich white folks in town. Corbin Teel (Garret Dillahunt) a white man, appears on their doorstep one night, blackmailing his way in to hide for possibly killing his foreman at the foundry. (Spoiler Alert)

Ms. Wallace complicates the structure with a nonsensical opening monologue from Tice (which never seemed to connect to the rest of the show), bringing back that kind of direct address not once, but three more times when exposition seemed necessary. Each time, the speeches felt disjointed and forced into the proceedings. Act I spent most (and a lot) of the time with the three characters stalking around each other, waiting for someone to draw a line in the sand, but not providing much plot advancement. Tice undertakes to groom Corbin as a spokesman for the Party, but Corbin is not so willing to jump into that fire. Cali watches from the sidelines, until Corbin turns his affection toward her. She stops him in his tracks and immediately takes the power position.

It's not until Act II that the play gets interesting, and not for very long at that. After Corbin's latest failed attempt to seduce or manhandle Cali into bed, we learn that she and Tice are actually competing for Corbin's attentions. Then Ms. Wallace tosses in a couple of oddly timed plot twists and before you know it, Corbin is dead. This exercise with Corbin has energized both Tice and Cali to rejoin the world.

Mr. Lindo's Tice is a self-educated man, balancing God and Karl Marx while struggling and stuck in his life. He remains compelling even as he struggles with lines here and there. (Granted it's still in previews, but the show has been running for a week as of my attendance.)

Mr. Dillahunt's makes this white-trash Corbin credible and at times sympathetic.

It is Ms. Ruff who is most successful as Cali, balancing the acerbic and cynical tongue with love for her father and the passion of a young widow re-awakened by Corbin.

Director Ruben Santiago-Hudson has assembled a talented cast, but the pace tends to drag. I'm also still trying to figure out why there was a dream ballet of dancing bedsheets at the opening of Act II. It was a visual treat, but felt out of place.

Richard Hoover's platform and string curtain set provided an excellent medium for the proceedings, which were beautifully complemented by Marcus Doshi's lighting.

New York Theatre Workshop is offering a discount:

Tickets for performances on May 22 & 23 are just $32.50 each and tickets for performances on May 26 – June 28 are just $40.00 (reg. $65).
* Tickets must be purchased by June 8, 2009.

Use code DHTB424 when ordering.

To purchase tickets, call (212) 947-8844 or visit

New York Theatre Workshop also offers both Student Tickets and CheapTix Sundays.

CheapTix Sundays: All tickets for all Sunday evening performances at 7pm are just $20 each! Tickets are available in advance but must be purchased at the NYTW box office on a cash-only basis.

Student Tickets: Full-time students with a valid student ID may purchase $20 tickets for all performances (subject to availability). Limit one ticket per ID. Tickets must be purchased in person and require an ID at the box office.

The NYTW box office is located at 79 East 4th Street (between Second Avenue and Bowery) and is open Tuesday - Saturday from 1pm - 6pm.

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