Tice Hogan has a thing for apples.
Playwright Naomi Wallace?s principal character in the play "Things of Dry Hours," Tice (Roger Robinson) expresses a childlike delight and a philosopher?s fascination for this particular piece of fruit, exploring the dichotomy between the apple?s "white flesh" and the black seeds at the core. Is the apple a metaphor for the struggle between races, classes, fathers and daughters, the educated and ignorant, the civilized and barbarians, the poor black Communists and the rich whites who run Tennessee Coal and Iron in 1932 Alabama, the setting of the play?
Perhaps all of the above.
Tice is the proud owner of two books by which he makes his living and his life ? The Bible and Karl Marx?s Manifesto of the Communist Party. Teaching Sunday school and preaching the rise of the proletariat, his principal pupil is his reluctant daughter, Cali (Erika LaVonn) who proves in the first act that she can swing an ax and divine the nature of man bythe shoes they haphazardly leave in the sheets they bring her to wash.
In their dialogues, Tice and Cali are like Socrates and Theaetetus, teacher and student. Deciding to keep a blue ribbon she found among her clients? sheets, Cali declares, "A little bit of sin reminds me to be good." Tice instructs that change happens within us all the time, and if you "look at something long enough, it will change, just out of spite."
The new element to their dialectic is Corbin Teel (Steven Cole Hughes), an illiterate white man on the run who explodes upon their lives with a "knock at the door" ? one of three things Tice describes in an opening soliloquy.
Tice and Cali both become teachers for Corbin, as Cali introduces Corbin to the myth of Narcissus while Tice teaches him to read. Corbin takes many forms, from would-be rapist to party comrade to naked white man to harassed black girl. In Corbin, one finds the quintessential question posed by the play: can a man change? If Tice?s Communist Party can bring former Klansmen together with women and blacks to build a utopian tomorrow, isn?t changing human nature possible?
"Things of Dry Hours" questions whether those who live day-to-day dare take time to dream. Should we sacrifice our ideals, our aspirations for something greater, in light of the pressing needs of the daily grind which is survival? But what are we if we do?
The play ends with Tice cutting open an apple. He is astounded by what he finds within as the audience seemed astounded by what they saw on stage.
IF YOU GO
Things of Dry Hours
» Venue: Center Stage, Head Theater
» Where: 700 N. Calvert St., Baltimore
» When: Through June 3
8 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 7:30 p.m Sunday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees
» Tickets: $10 to $60.
» Information: 410-332-0033