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May 20, 2016
Review: Cal in Camo
Credit: Carol Rosegg

The enigmatic Cal in Camo, by playwright William Francis Hoffman, mostly takes place inside a kitchen making one assume that what will unfold onstage will be in the vein of a traditional family drama. Lo and behold, the play reveals itself as a drama that could very well be taking place inside the amorphous confines of the mind, as the kitchen becomes just a humanly recognizable setting, so to speak, for the three main characters to expose their worldviews. Cal (Katya Campbell) has recently given birth to a baby daughter, and is going through what one can detect is postpartum depression: with shadows under her eyes that show a lack of sleep, and bruised nipples which she uncovers to make a point to her doubtful husband Tim (David Harbour).

Tim, a craft beer salesman, is going through a rough patch as his business endeavor hasn’t taken off in the way he expected. No one gets why beer needs to taste like anything other than beer and he has trouble placing products in the dive bars near where he lives. As if tensions weren’t already high, Cal announces that her brother Flynt (Paul Wesley), who has become recently widowed, will come stay with them for a few days. Tim doesn’t like Flynt and when he arrives, he sets off to become an instant antagonist. Soon, Tim realizes that the blood ties that link his wife to her brother, might be stronger than those that link her to him, setting the ground for psychological warfare of the most disturbing kind.

Directed with precision and style by Adrienne Campbell-Holt, Cal in Camo often gets away with a too heavy use of symbolic imagery - we learn the house where it takes place was built next to a sinkhole - by having the actors play everything right on the surface. The always reliable Harbour is terrific as the man who tries to deny his primal instincts in the name of civilization, while Campbell is devastating, and ultimately haunting, as a woman who doesn’t understand why she is stuck perpetuating societal roles she probably never agreed to take part in, in the first place.

Wesley, however, is the play’s true revelation. His Flynt is a creature so uncomfortable in his own skin, that when a literal Chekhov’s Gun shows up onstage and is placed in his hands, you can almost feel the shivers running down through the spines of the whole audience. What’s beautiful to watch is how Wesley subverts these preconceptions we have about what people who look and act a certain way ought to be like. He brings a childlike wonder and sweetness to a part that might have been played just for show by a different actor.

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Written by: Jose Solis
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