Theatre of the Reconstruction

Our sense of gratitude for what we have is easily overwhelmed by our chronic craving for more. Yet that craving tends to breed unhappiness and a perverse notion that we are entitled to whatever we desire.

The humility of a grateful man clashes brutally with the arrogance of a bitter, resentful woman in Call It Clover (or, Sandy’s Bad Day), by far the most gripping of the three one-acts by Wil Calhoun being staged by the Theatre of the Reconstruction under the title Desired Affects.

The play takes place in the squalid apartment of a roofer named Perry, whose wife Sandy is paralyzed from the waist down. She’s sitting propped up on the bed in her pajamas, reading a magazine, and Perry is making himself a sandwich at the kitchen table, when the front-door buzzer sounds. Sandy hears the voice of Eddie over the intercom and gets upset. “Don’t let him up,” she tells Perry. “I don’t like that little shit. . . . All the time starin’ at my tits.”

Eddie arrives bearing a six-pack of beer and apologizes for ringing the buzzer so insistently. “I thought maybe you wasn’t home, so I kept ringing,” he explains.

Obviously Eddie isn’t very bright, but he’s good-hearted and he gets very upset when Perry and Sandy start arguing over the whereabouts of the tomato Perry wanted to put on his sandwich. “Let’s not do this,” Eddie begs. “You two are my favorite couple. All right? Don’t give me bad illusions about you two.”

When Perry storms out to go to the store, he insists that Eddie stay in the apartment–to Sandy’s dismay. But Eddie coaxes Sandy into conversation, and she tells him how she was cast in a TV commercial the first time she auditioned. “You have that kind of success right off, you kinda expect things to start goin’ your way,” she says, revealing her bitterness over the paralysis that ended her career.

But Eddie can’t identify with the ambition she’s describing. “I never had no plans that big to get spoiled,” he says. And by admitting he’s content with life’s little pleasures, he unleashes the full force of her resentment. “Nobody’s satisfied with what they got,” she sneers. To prove it, she proceeds to make Eddie want her, just so she can deny him that pleasure.

The scene is painful to watch, especially since Michael Dalmon’s endearingly goofy performance makes Eddie a thoroughly sympathetic character. While sitting at the kitchen table with Perry, he does indeed sneak leering glances at Sandy and he admits that he likes to spend his money on prostitutes. Yet Dalmon emphasizes Eddie’s sincerity and genuine concern for others, making the character’s lechery seem innocent and harmless. Hanna Dworkin accentuates the ugliness of Sandy’s disposition by concealing it for a time behind a sweet facade as she tries to seduce Eddie. Their clash is nasty and painful, but it lends substance to this simple 40-minute play.

The other two plays in the program are so slight they verge on weightlessness. The Voice of Reason is a tedious, pointless argument between Tom (Ben Kearney), who wants to run away and become a cowboy, and Eva (Patricia Duff), who tries to explain why the idea is silly. The Duck Hunters is about two buddies, Rueben (James Thoresen) and Phil (Ed Smaron), who are starting to wonder if their annual trip into a swamp, where they stand for hours in the cold waiting for ducks, is worth the trouble. These are not plays as much as play fragments. Their most significant function is to lower the audience’s expectations of the playwright, so that the intense drama of Call It Clover, which is performed last, comes as a pleasant surprise.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ben Kearney.