Wakey! Wakey! Lynn Nottage strikes again with an original play, ‘Clyde’s,’ now running at Helen Hayes Theater (2nd Stage,) through January 16, 2022.
Clyde, played by Emmy-Winner Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black) is a sassy sandwich shop-owner who hires ex-cons to work in her establishment.
The play begins and Clyde is stretched across a counter in her namesake truck stop. It’s clear that she’s got the power and is not afraid to use it.
Described as devilish—to me—Clyde is a reflection of society, as cold and cruel as it may be. Simply put, these ex-cons are here because they’ve got no other options as they battle with the confinements of their post incarceration “freedom.”
In comparison, Montrellous (Emmy-Winner Ron Cephas Jones, This is Us) is an angel, while Clyde is a devil. And “the ingredients are at war,” as the actors master the art of sandwich artistry (and actually), chopping while acting!
Takeshi Kata’s set is an industrial kitchen with Christopher Akerlind using intense lights and music patterns (Justin Ellington) during transitions. Jennifer Moeller’s costumes, (especially Clyde’s outrageous, form-fitting ensembles) help define the show while each member of the sandwich crew has their own distinct and undeniably hilarious delivery, directed by Kate Whoriskey.
Letitia played by Kara Young is a single mother who ended up behind bars for robbing a pharmacy. Through her borderline slapstick comedy, Young commands the stage, vibrant like the hot pink cornrows cascading down her back. She’s somewhat a veteran of the shop along with Rafael (Reza Salazar). At times it’s hard to imagine the fierce fun-loving Rafael robbing a bank with a BB gun, but Salazar’s moments are believable, even during his overly dramatic love spells.
When a new hire Jason (Edmund Donovan) unintentionally shakes up the place, we see the deep desire for change among the ex-cons, and by the time Jason breaks down, we have a bit of compassion for him despite his flaws. He just wants to be alone, at peace, doing his job until getting to the next place. But that might be impossible for any of the staff members under Clyde’s abusive and toxic management.
At last, Montrellous the saint uncovers the metaphor through his various retweet-able one-liners. “Let whatever you’re feeling be a part of your process and not an impediment,” he says, presenting coping strategies for the others to fold into the possibilities as a way to escape and master reality. He urges the hopefuls to find one ingredient that defies expectations.
It’s more than just making sandwiches, it’s about putting the recipe of life together, and finding the answer to the question: Does the perfect sandwich exist? My best guess is “no,” with an open-ended denouement, though far from a resolution per se.
There’s no perfect sandwich, but in life, as well as at Clyde’s, mindfulness and radical acceptance are each the slices of bread with a jalapeño aioli spread, Swiss chard, a sprinkle of salt, and a layer of questionable Chilean sea bass.
For tickets, click here.