Tice Hogan is a communist in 1932 Birmingham, one of the few places in that time and city where black and white people could come together as equals. He tells us in the opening monologue that he owns two books - a big Bible, and The Communist Manifesto, a slim volume but just as important to him. But being a member of the party could also get him in trouble with the local mining company, so when an unknown white man comes knocking at the door of the house he shares with his daughter Cali, saying the party sent him, he's suspicious. Corbin was fired from the mine and hit the man who fired him with a steel pipe, probably killing him. He gives Tice the name of a mutual friend who says that he could shelter him. Tice reluctantly agrees to let him stay for one week until things cool down, and eventually begins to teach him about communism. Cali gives him porridge in the morning and soup in the evening, but Corbin wants more from her, first a kind word, then a kiss. Cali takes a shine to him too, but knows that nothing good can come of that.
There's a lot going on in this play. The idea of communism and the struggle of the working people to be treated fairly, the extreme and overt racism of 1932 Alabama, and gender inequality. I found the most powerful of these to be Cali's stories about life as a poor black woman who earns a living doing laundry for rich white people, gathering bits and pieces of their lives where she can. She's able to briefly turn that power dynamic on its head in a bit of play-acting with Corbin, so perhaps just for a brief moment he can understand what it's like to be her.
|Hope Cervantes, Warren Bowles, and Sam Bardwell|
If I hadn't read it ahead of time, I'm not sure I would have known Things of Dry Hours was written by the same playwright as One Flea Spare. I don't see a lot of of similarities, other than obscure titles and a strangely poetic analogy that ties the story together. In One Flea Spare it's water on stone, in Things of Dry Hours it's an apple (which I admit I didn't completely get, it would require a bit more contemplation on a better night's sleep). But it's a fascinating and well-done story that's worth the effort (continuing at the Playwrights' Center through October 4).