Naomi Wallace doesn’t do easy. That’s clear in her absorbing Things of Dry Hours, which receives a typically thought-provoking production by Frank Theatre at the Playwrights’ Center.
The play examines life in the early 1930s in America through a very particular lens: an older, southern African American man who is as dedicated to the Communist Party as his church. Tice shares his home with his daughter, Cali, a widow who washes clothes for the local rich white folk. Tice has been laid off as a steel worker, so he spends his time rabble-rousing for the party, while avoiding too much attention from the likes of the Klan.
Their lives are interrupted by the arrival of Corbin, a white man who claims to have killed a foreman at the mill and pleads for sanctuary until the heat is off. A mix of humanity for a kindred spirit and fear of what a white man could do to their lives causes Tice and Cali to welcome Corbin into their home.
The play follows the complex interplay among these three characters. Wallace’s sometimes languid script merges moments of magic, passion, and political theater into an always engaging whole.
A health scare meant James Craven had to drop out of the play at the last minute. His replacement, Warren Bowles, still needed the script for some scenes on opening night, which kept him from fully engaging with his two stage partners. Bowles’ skills rode through these moments, and gave the production a center that was both warm and fierce.
When they had the stage to themselves, Hope Cerventes and Sam Bardwell showed the full breadth that Things of Dry Hours will eventually grow into once Bowles is settled in his role. Wendy Knox’s sure-handed direction gives us a clear view into the ever-shifting dynamics between these two, as there is a passion that is mixed with sorrow and hesitation, such as a moment when the two kiss — not each other’s lips, but Cali’s raised hand.
IF YOU GO:
Things of Dry Hours
Today through Oct. 4
2301 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis
For tickets and more information, call 612-724-3760.