Playwright Lucas Hnath has written a play featuring iconic figures once again. His narratives have included such notables as Walt Disney, Anna Nicole Smith and Sir Isaac Newton. His new play, now having its World Premiere on the stage at Victory Gardens is titled “Hillary and Clinton”, so needless to say, we all know who the characters are. First of all, I must say that this particular play comes at a weird time in history, insomuch as we all know that Hillary is running for the nomination of the 2016 upcoming Presidential election. At the very onset of this story, Hillary (the marvelous Cheryl Lynn Bruce) tells us that there are many galaxies and Earths. That it is possible that the one we are viewing is a far from where we are. In fact, it is probably just an “alternate universe”. Yeah! That’s it!
This is indeed another universe with another United States and another lady running for the presidential nomination, who just happens to be named Hillary and who just happens to have a husband, named Bill Clinton ( deftly handled by John Apicella), who just happened to have been a prior President of these different United States. The year is 2008 . The action is a New Hampshire Hotel room where Hillary and her campaign manager, Mark ( a sharp performance by always reliable Keith Kupferer) are talking strategy about what might happen if she loses this primary. A “deal” has been offered by The Other Guy (smoothly handled by Juan Francisco Villa), who it turns out has offered her the VP spot if she opts out of the race.
Her campaign needs a shot in the arm or she will lose handily. Bill comes to help her, but not in the way she wants his help. It is obvious they are not a true couple, but in fact do have some strong ties to each other and to the public that they have served over the years. Sharply directed by Chay Yew, on a very plain set (William Bales follows the KISS method /Keep It Simple Stupid), with solid lighting (Keith Parham), projections (Liviu Pasare), sound (Rick Sims) and costumes (Janice Pytel) along with props (Aimee Plant) picking up the technical aspects of this less than 90 minutes ( no intermission) of pure escapism.
During the course of the 90 minutes, we bear witness to four individuals and how their lives cross paths with each other. “The Other Guy” is only in one scene, but in that particular scene Villa expresses how he feels after making a deal, only to have Bill throw it all up for grabs, by his getting involved. Mark is a “loser” of sorts that finds himself entranced by Hillary and in love with her (or is it only lust for the power she might have should she become the President?). As for Bill and Hillary- why is Hillary so eager to give in and accept the deal from the Other Guy? Is it because she has never been a “loser” in her life and does not want to become one now? Is Bill only involved so that he can show the people of the world that they were indeed right to love and believe in him, or does he truly want his “wife” to hold this high and powerful office, despite his inner feelings about women in power?
That is what this narrative is all about. In an alternate universe, far from what we call our home, there is another election about to take place and a woman who closely resembles a candidate that we have here in our universe. Hnath takes our world apart and puts the pieces back from his own puzzle using some of the pieces from ours, and does so with comic touches that also get deep into the mind.Yes, this is a fantasy of sorts, but with some deep meaning and explorations. Just how far would someone go to become the leader of the most important world power there is? What type of sacrifices will one make? For themselves? For their families? For their loved ones? Or even for their party?
While the shelf life of the play might be limited by the election year, the story is one that can be most effective in getting the political mind in gear, and this sterling cast makes the characters almost real. I had mixed feelings reading the press notes when we were invited to attend, but after seeing this production, I am glad that I opted to not send another writer and take this one on myself. It was a delight to bear witness to.
“Hillary and Clinton” will continue thru May 1st at The Victory Gardens Theater located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue (The Biograph Theater) with performances as follows:
Wednesday 7:30 p.m.
Thursday 7:30 p.m.
Friday 7:30 p.m.
Saturday 3 and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday 3 p.m.
Wednesday, April 20th will also see a 2 p.m. performance
ASL Interpreted April 15th
Word for Word (open captioning) April 15th, 16th and 20th
Audio Description April 15th with a touch tour at 6 p.m. and April 24th with the touch tour at 1:30 p.m.
There are post show discussions as well as other events tied to this production- visit www.victorygardens.org
Metered parking in the area and valet parking at the door.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Hillary and Clinton”