Performing Arts: Theater
May 6, 2019
Travel back to the first time Hillary Clinton vied for the presidency. After months of exhaustively campaigning, hopes fly high in New Hampshire but the coffers are drained. What to do? Oh -- sure, call Bill.

The new Broadway play Hillary and Clinton by Lucas Hnath clamps onto a very specific night when questions about “unlikeability” hover over Hillary’s unrelenting quest for the presidency. Her harried campaign manager, Mark (Zak Orth), serves as cheerleader, truth teller and man with a Dunkin' Donuts box perpetually attached to his hands.

Unable to stomach Zak’s pronouncement that the coffers are bare, Hillary (Laurie Metcalf) goes against all reason and invites Bill (who has been banned from the trail) to visit. She wants his advice, she wants his support, but mostly, she wants his foundation’s money.

Set in a sterile white room, dotted by a small frig, chair and door leading to a bedroom, set designer Chloe Lamford perfectly replicates all the anonymous motels and hotels tolerated by president-hungry candidates. Skillfully directed by Joe Mantello, Metcalf nails the plain spoken, intellectually vexed woman who’s generally smarter than everyone else but somehow, never fully appreciated. A haggard looking John Lithgow arrives still pouting about his ostracization, yet eager to get back in the game.

The dialogue between Bill and Hillary convincingly slips in and out of tricky issues that tread over the pros and cons of staying married or the dangers of accepting money from a politically tainted foundation.

When the two dissect the reasons for staying together, I was reminded of an interview on radio with Hillary Clinton about two years after President Clinton's impeachment. The interviewer posed this question: “Why don’t you divorce Bill. It would be so much easier on you?” Hillary quipped, “Because there’s no one I’d rather talk to.”

Both are political animals driven by ambition and powerful intellects yet, Bill knows how to speak to the voters’ emotions, while Hillary speaks to their reason.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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