Israel Hicks directs the drama, telling the story of an African-American father and daughter (Robinson and Coleman) in Depression-era Alabama. "Their lives are thrown into jeopardy when a white factory worker on the run from company police demands sanctuary in their home," according to Pittsburgh Public production notes. "With the three of them trapped in a tiny house, the intersections and maneuverings of gender, race and class are laid bare through Wallace's riveting poetic language."
"Like all her plays, the language is gorgeous and distinctive," Pittsburgh Public artistic director Ted Pappas told Playbill On-Line. "The themes of the play are big and encompass a lot of the American experience. In the background of all of this is the American labor movement, the communist party and the power of religion — and the ability for a man to change and become a better man, a fuller person."
As in One Flea Spare, he said, the play does have humor. "It's a world where bleakness may surround the characters, but they find an ability to delight in the small things, which reveals their humanness," Pappas said.
Things of Dry Hours had been sent to several theatres that bit at the bait, but Pappas thinks his company won out because of its track record with new works, including August Wilson's plays.
Pittsburgh Public gave Things of Dry Hours a Hicks-directed July 2003 workshop, with Wallace in the room. It prompted rewrites from the author. Wallace, who lives in England, has been in residence in Pittsburgh for rehearsals and the preview period. In an unusual choice, rehearsals for the play began in New York City, to accommodate Robinson, who was appearing in Drowning Crow at the Biltmore Theatre on Broadway.
Wallace, who hails from Kentucky, is the winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the Fellowship of Southern Writers Drama Award, the Kesselring Prize, and the OBIE Award for her One Flea Spare. In 1999, she was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship.
Opening at Pittburgh Public's O'Reilly Theater is April 23. Performances continue to May 16.
Tickets for Things of Dry Hours range from $29-$46. For tickets and further information, call (412) 316-1600 or visit www.ppt.org.