He Says: Hillary and Clinton: A Brilliant Alternate Middle on a Planet Far Far Away

He Says: Hillary and Clinton: A Brilliant Alternate Middle on a Planet Far Far Away

This is a hard one to describe; Lucas Hnath‘s new dramatic dark comedy, Hillary and Clinton. It’s a complicated head game, beautifully set up by the captivating oration of its star, Laurie Metcalf (Broadway’s Three Tall Women) with mic in hand leading us effortlessly into one of the infinite alternate universes where two iconic players do their dance of complicated attachment. It’s a dynamic and hilarious journey to the dark side of a marriage made in political heaven and hell, slide into a parallel planet for our consumption. It’s not surprising that it leads our racing minds to Hnath‘s other wonderfully contemplative creation, A Doll’s House, Part 2, which also had the same charismatic actress as its leader. Both take on an inventive construct with Hnath (Red Speedo) running wild inside his imaginative playground hoping to find one of the many possibilities on this other January, 2008, and once you wrap your head around the abstractionism, the meta-political race to the end is on, full-force, fantastic and enlightening. Sort of. If you believe what you’re seeing is real. Or researched. Which it is not. At least I don’t think it was. Or is. Or will ever be proven. Or denied.

Photo: Julieta Cervantes
John Lithgow, Laurie Metcalf. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Not calling Bill“, the woman who calls herself Hillary says, as the square that will enclose the action slides forward, beautifully and abstractly designed by Chloe Lamford (Young Vic’s Disco Pigs), with perfectly eclectic costuming by Rita Ryack (Broadway’s Casa Valentina), dynamic lighting by Hugh Vanstone (Broadway’s Groundhog Day), and stellar sound design by Leon Rothenberg (Broadway’s The New One). But we know she will, regardless what she tells her campaign manager Mark, frantically and manically played by the fabulous Zak Orth (LCT’s subUrbia). Because without the famously charismatic former president, Bill,  played with narcissistic delight by John Lithgow (RTC’s Stories by Heart), the time on this slightly different earth light years away, would be infinitely less dynamic.  These two, duking it out with a subtle needy love and abhorrence, are what keeps us tuned in.  And it is what drives the piece forward with energy and spite.  Their chemistry, both Hillary and Clinton, and their embodiments, Metcalf and Lithgow, spark the fire and flame that can make your eyes water (but I didn’t cry, I don’t think). It’s all power and personality, “pretty thin stuff to be remembered for“. Their engagement is what this play will be remembered for, playing with what we might think with what we know, and what we might imagine, if we were as whip smart as playwright Hnath.

Photo: Julieta Cervantes
Peter Francis James, Laurie Metcalf. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

It’s all a fantastic stress-filled buildup to when Clinton’s “new you” shows up, Barack, portrayed wisely and with wit to spare by Peter Francis James (Broadways’ Present Laughter). The power play is magnificently charged and a thrill to volley around with, imagining the impossible within that square space void of all human comforts. As directed with a sharp and piercing eye for conflict and clarity by Joe Mantello (Broadway’s The Boys in the BandThe Humans), the political chess game is a thrill and a hoot to witness.  It’s a memory of something that might never have happened except in Hnath’s mind; a place where all possibilities can exist lined up one by one, idea after idea.  It’s an attachment structure that many may walk out of the Golden Theatre believing. But don’t be fooled by the brilliance of his imagination.  But it’s pretty hard not to be, as Metcalf, Lithgow, Hillary and Clinton are all just too good to ignore or discard. So strap yourself in, and get ready for the journey of a political lifetime.

Hillary and Clinton
Laurie Metcalf. Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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