Performing Arts: Theater
December 5, 2021
Second chances restore lives, particularly in the case of convicts. Released with little pocket money, no permanent residence or job options, inmates navigate a treacherous tightrope between prison and freedom.

Produced by Second Stage, Lynn Nottage's Clyde's takes a crack at the mental anguish, insatiable hope and insecurities plaguing people constantly worried about stumbling in society and returning to jail.

For four felons, their "get out of jail" cards lead them to a truck stop diner specializing in sandwiches. Owned by a former inmate, the commanding Clyde (Uzo Abuda) is worse than any drill sergeant. Clyde's threats and incessant mental cruelty insure her subjects toe the line.

Insisting the kitchen staff stick to the traditional sandwich making rules, Clyde lays down a hard line on culinary experimentations. The kitchen staff, Ron Cephas Jones, Edmund Donovan, Reza Salazar and Kara Young, become a family supporting each other's imagined futures that take the shape of fanciful sandwiches. Although the lowly sandwich hardly claims culinary heights, the staff recognizes that even a truck driver is enchanted by a decorative sprig of parsley next to a basic grilled cheese sandwich. Beauty in all its forms captivates the soul.

Despite a history of seriously bad judgements, the staff's inherent humanity is revealed through playful banter summoned in the kitchen. Letitia (Kara Young), a wiry bolt of energy, is raising a partially abled child. She engages in flirtatious exchange with Rafael (Reza Salazar) a highly emotional man, and fabulous dancer. A new arrival sporting white supremacist tattoos, Jason (Edmund Donovan) is both the only white man and the least experienced cook.

At the zen center stands the head chef Montrellus (Ron Cephas Jones). He encourages and inspires the kitchen staff to find their wonder through their real and fancied culinary concoctions.

Montrellus insists on the eloquence of simple ingredients combined with imagination and intentionality. Despite the harshness evoked by Clyde, the staff not only finds love in the back kitchen; through their camaraderie, they release entrapped laughter, generosity and forgiveness.

Kate Whoriskey's sure-handed direction convenes an outstanding ensemble cast led by Montrellus who represents a beacon of inspiration for all.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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