Reviewing “Call It Clover” at Santa Clara
The Santa Clara
February 22, 2018
You’re seated on a train. Opposite you is a middle-aged couple. As you turn the pages of your book, you can’t help but overhear the bickering back and forth of the man and woman. They are arguing over a trifle, but their tones suggest this argument has roots deeper than the surface. As you pretend not to listen, the sun shifts and the couple’s shadows grow ten feet tall against the opposite wall of the train.
This quarter’s student-run “One-Act Festival” highlights the excitement of voyeurism, uniquely captured in one act plays, works of theater that leave the audience wanting more.
This year’s Winter One-Act is senior Andrew Brannon’s production of “Call It Clover,” which was written by “Friends” producer Wil Calhoun. The play only lasts around 40 minutes and unravels in real time. A lot of humanity is packed into the pages of Calhoun’s script, but true to the spirit of a one-act most of the meat of the play can only be gleaned from what goes unsaid.
“Call It Clover” takes place in the South and revolves around three characters, all played by Santa Clara students: Sandy, played by Kimiko Chang, a classic bully archetype who reconciles her own lost dreams by reveling in the failure of others; Perry, Sandy’s extremely embittered husband, played by Josh Kendall; and lastly, Eddie, played by Anthony Sampson. The lights come on and we see Perry berating Sandy for “stealing” a tomato from the fridge. Later, we find out that one, Perry refuses to eat a sandwich without tomatoes and two, Sandy is paralyzed from the hip down. Her ability to, as Perry suggests, get off her “lazy ass” and steal a tomato is slightly diminished.
When Eddie, Perry ’s friend, arrives during this fight, he brings both a sixpack of beer and his good spirits. The remainder of the plot plays with the varying ways social discomfort can manifest itself on a group of people. In this way, “Call It Clover” sometimes reminded me of the dynamics in sitcoms—some of the traditional trappings of the genre make repeated appearances, like the physical comedy of Eddie trying to socialize with Sandy, or the way Perry shouts his praises of the tomato until his face turns the shade of one, or the cartoonish seduction of Eddie by Sandy. It only makes sense that Calhoun’s career took shape the way it did in the years after writing this script, earning credits not only on “Friends” but also critically-acclaimed sitcoms like “What I Like About You” and “Grace and Frankie.”
One line in particular, blurted by Eddie after a certain proposition from Sandy—(“That is not a simple question, that is the opposite of a simple question!”) was distinctly marked by the rhythms of television comedy.
Indeed, Eddie was right; Sandy’s question was not so simple, just like almost nothing in “Call It Clover” is simple. The director’s note from the show states: “Negative personality traits are not just there because someone is a horrible person … people are complicated.” This was the point that stuck with me throughout the play, as Perry, Sandy and Eddy all slowly revealed their darker neurosis.
Overall, the staging of the proceeding was a little awkward at times, but was consistently and decidedly theatrical.
What I mean is, while it may not make sense for someone to face the audience in real life when delivering a particularly moving monologue, it usually worked okay here. Since we only can see a glimpse into these three lives, it is easy to dwell on the superficial.
Watch carefully, however, and you notice how little elements of the production hint at a certain depth to these ostensibly dumb, ignorant and selfish characters. Chang, as Sandy, writhes her face with emotion more when listening to her husband chat with his friend than when she recalls how her dreams were shot down after her paralysis. Kendall, who plays Perry, is not only temperamental but nervous, always keeping his head down as he talks.
Sampson’s performance as Eddie might have been my favorite, as he lends an existential heft to his character’s simple humility.
“Call It Clover” was extremely evocative and, at times, devastating. And all it took to deliver this encapsulation of life was one act. No more no less.
Contact Peter Schutz at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.