Wednesday January 17th 2018

” Cal In Camo”

Recommended *** Family! There are so many plays that deal with family life, positive and negative. Dysfunction in families is a major theme for both movies and plays, and probably the majority of television series that we watch as well. For those of you familiar with Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, dedicated to bring the talents of women to the forefront, as well as to select plays that explore the unique female experiences, you will find the current production, “Cal In Camo” written by William Francis Hoffman, to be an in depth character study of a very dysfunctional family, indeed!

In this 85 minute story we meet Cal (Ashley Neal shows her power in making her come alive) a young , new mother, who cannot seem to bond with her daughter, and as it turns out, husband. Hubby, Tim (deftly handled by Eric Slater) is a true Chicagoan, a beer sales rep who has been asked to leave the big city and move to a small suburban area in rural Illinois. Cal said that this would be the only way she would start a family as the big city was not her” cup of tea”. Tim comes from a large Bridgeport family , while Cal has only a brother who shows up when he needs something.

Tim’s success in the city was great, but now that they are in a rural territory, one that Tim is unfamiliar with, there is a struggle to survive. Add to this, the Cal situation where she is unable to draw milk for her daughter and as we learn later, a new home that is not exactly all that Tim thought they were buying. Cal’s brother, Flynt ( a powerful performance by Chicago favorite Keith Kupferer) is now visiting to get over the shock of his wife passing away in the water that surrounded  their Missouri flood-land home. Water plays an important role in this story.

While Tim does not like Flynt, as they spend some time together, Flynt shows his brother-in-law that he is in fact not a bad guy, just different. We also learn more about the relationship that broke up Cal’s family and that her brother, despite all of what took place, cared for her best interests. Hoffman takes us down a slippery slope in dealing with family and how difficult life can be. Having a baby does not mean that mother and child will “bond”! Dealing with siblings is not always love and friendship! In fact, marriage is not always all it is meant to be , thus divorce!

During this 85 minute play, Hoffman examines many of the topics that we take for granted, and under the smooth direction of Hallie Gordon on a fantastic set by  Joanna Iwanicka, we get the feeling we are in a tract home in rural America. In fact, it might have been a double-wide trailer home, except that it appears that Cal grew up in one of those, so this new home was a step-up in life. During this story we also learn more about Cal’s growing up and the relationship between her and Flynt. In fact, it is the so-called “loser” Flynt, that helps this family survive the many errors of their lives.

There is another actor in this production. The character is the Bar Owner, and the scene is that of Tim showing his line of fancy beers in this god-forsaken territory. The program lists the Bar Owner as being played by Tara Mallen, but what I learned tonight, with this character being played by Danny McCarthy , is that each performance could have a local actor taking on this role. Novel idea, to say the least, but it made for a new experience. The technical aspects of the production are wonderful. Music and sound by Victorio Deiorio, props by Blake Leo Burke, costumes by Janice Pytel and lighting by Charles Cooper.

Rivendell is a very intimate space where we feel that we are that “fly on the wall”. I think there are less that 60 seats, so I suggest that if you want to experience this brilliant piece, you get a date picked quickly. The run will continue through February 17th with performances as follows:

Thursdays  8 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  8 p.m.

Sundays  4 p.m.

There will be a special Sunday matinée on February 11th at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $38  seniors and students $28 and for each performance, 5 of the seats will be sold for “pay What You Can”

To order, call 773-334-7728 or visit

The theater is located at 5779 N. Ridge Avenue

there is parking on the area streets and free parking at Senn High School’s lot on Thorndale Avenue

To see what others are saying, visit, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Cal In Camo”

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