The Capacity To Connect

ashley-neal-eric-slaterThere’s nothing like the bonding moment between a mother and her child. Nine months of intimacy with your baby growing inside of you as you seek a life of splendor when you meet your baby for the very first time. But what happens when the joy of your life fails to connect with you outside of the womb, and you noticed that your motherhood switch didn’t automatically flip on?

Playwright William Francis Hoffman introduces us to the struggles of motherhood played out in the intricacies of family ties and withheld secrets between a husband and wife. The play offers up doses of laughter and painful revelations of the truth.  

Cal In Camo is set in Sterling Illinois, where a young couple has moved into their starter home which happens to be located near a sinkhole in their property development. Tim (Eric Slater) is a beer salesman struggling to land accounts in an unpromising new territory, and his wife Cal (Ashley Neal) is struggling with becoming a new mother.

ashley-neal-keith-kupfererThe joys of motherhood seemingly have been cut short when Cal tries tirelessly to connect with her daughter with the most natural thing a mother can do, breastfeed.  Unfortunately, she cannot produce enough milk, and the breast machine is causing bruises on her breast, and her baby isn’t latching on to the little milk that she has produced. Coupled with mood swings and feelings of isolation and resentment towards her baby; Cal starts to question her ability to be a parent.

In the midst of her daily battles, Cal receives a surprise visit from her brother Flynt. His wife drowned due to a flood because their house was too close to the river. Tim is not too fond of Cal’s estranged relationship with her brother and initially does not want him to come and stay with them, even if it is on a temporary basis.

Cal In Camo delves into the capacity to connect with your baby, brother and your husband, rolled up all in one. Old wounds are brought to the surface with unease to pervade Cal and Tim’s new home, and the journey of parenthood is challenged daily while the expectation of everything falling into place is non-existing.

Hoffman gave us some insight on postpartum and the disheartening effects of the aftermath; however, we thought the plot would have been more relatable if the play was solely focused on a woman’s experience of postpartum without the storyline of her brother issue coming into play.

Postpartum is a critical issue; childbirth can trigger a vast plethora of powerful emotions in both parents, ranging from excitement and delight to anxiety and depression. Cal In Camo could have made a significant statement if it honed in on those problems instead of on filling in the storyline with other mental issues that the brother Flynt was experiencing.

More of Cal and her husband Tim and Cal’s lack of connection bonding with her child would indeed make this an eric-slaterattention-grabbing play.  However, it is at the very end of the play that it spoke volumes without saying a word when Cal took her brother’s advice to bond with her child. Unfortunately, this powerful ending got lost by the lack of a more poignant script.

Director Hallie Gordon did a good job of inserting fear, self-doubt, and insecurities within Cal and all of the emotions that a first-time parent will experience. Nonetheless, we would have liked to have seen more from Ashley Neal in this role that has shattered so many women who have felt alone in their journey of becoming new mothers.

Neal is a formidable actress and could have added the emotions needed to truly make the audience see the painful truth about the struggles of postpartum.  

We recommend that you check Cal In Camo out at the Rivendell Theatre.

The cast includes:

Ashley Neal (Cal)

Keith Kupferer (Flynt)

Eric Slater (Tim)


Rivendell Theatre Presents

Cal In Camo

By RTE member William Francis Hoffman

Directed by RTE member Hallie Gordon

January 5 – February 17, 2018


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