It’s the first scene of the play, and Clyde (Danielle Davis) and Montrellous (Kevin Kenerly) are alone in the Clyde’s kitchen. They have just had an argument about sandwiches that was antagonistic but also clearly familiar – these two have been working together for a while. Montrellous has been building a sandwich throughout this conversation and once he’s done, takes a pause. The lights shift. The room that had just been filled with harsh florescent lighting suddenly shifts into one of pink and purple. As Montrellous starts to describe the detailed contents of his sandwich, magic consumes the room. He takes on a soothing tone, and Clyde is hooked. She inches closer and closer, and just when you think she is going to take a bite, a fire erupts before her and she drops the sandwich into the flame.
Just as suddenly as the lights shifted previously, we are thrust back to reality. We are back in the kitchen, and Clyde is not taking a bite of the sandwich today. Instead, she decided to burn it.
Clyde may have chosen to storm off and not to eat the sandwich. The Opening Night audience still erupted in applause and laughter at Davis and Kenerly’s performance.
Goodman Theater presents Clyde’s
Lynn Nottage’s play follows a group of kitchen staff at Clyde’s – a truck stop café. As we get to know the ensemble of characters, we find that each was formerly incarcerated, and has their story as to how that came to be. As much as Clyde (played at Opening by understudy Danielle Davis), the owner, tries to use their past to keep them under a very strong thumb, each finds their own reason to keep dreaming. What might begin as a quest to make the perfect sandwich quickly becomes something far larger as the characters dare to hope for a different, more optimistic future.
The entire play takes place inside the tiny café kitchen, and Set Designer Takeshi Kata’s stage even feels constrictive in its structure. The characters are almost literally working on top of each other as they make the sandwiches for the truckers that pass through. Everyone in the story knows everything about each other, and little room is left for privacy. The design with harsh florescent lights and tight walls heightens that feeling of intimacy, and especially in moments of aggression in the story, you might find yourself feeling that discomfort right alongside the characters.
When we meet Jason (Garrett Young), it’s his first day at Clyde’s. Letitia (Nedra Snipes) and Rafael (Reza Salazar) have already been on the shift for a while, and it’s clear they have a strong rapport. The lunch rush is in full swing, but they joke around and keep things as light as they can.
When Jason enters, the entire environment shifts. Suddenly everything comes to a halt. A new individual has entered the scene, and Letitia and Rafael need to see if he’s up for the challenge. As they interrogate him and put him to the test with the newest lunch order, we see Jason’s anxiety build, and the already tights walls feel as if they are closing in. The pressure builds as Letitia and Rafael push him around, and this writer certainly found herself feeling physically nervous as Jason clearly tries with everything he has to bottle up that reaction and take it.
Directed by Kate Whoriskey, Clyde’s is fast-paced and engaging. The story takes a moment to highlight each characters’ past – allowing the audience a window into their backstory and a reason to lean in and hope for their success. As much as the story takes some dark twists and turns, the writing is also saturated with comedy, allowing for much needed moments of release, in this writer’s opinion.
Brilliant writing, stand-out acting, and seamless directing make Clyde’s a show to see. If you’re like this writer, the story might just stick with you for days.
Letitia……………….. Nedra Snipes
Set Design by Takeshi Kata
Costume Design by Jennifer Moeller
Lighting Design by Christopher Akerlind
Sound Design by Justin Ellington
Composition by Justin Hicks
Casting is by Lauren Port, CSA and Rachael Jimenez, CSA. Nikki Blue is the Production Stage Manager.
Running through October 16, 2022
Tuesdays at 7:30pm
Wednesdays at 7:30pm
Thursdays at 2:00pm and 7:30pm
Fridays at 8:00pm
Saturdays at 2:00pm and 8:00pm
Sundays at 2:00pm and 7:30pm
Thursday, October 13 at 7:30pm
Friday, October 14 at 8pm
Saturday, October 15 at 2pm and 8pm
Sunday, October 16 at 2pm
170 N Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60601
About the Author: Lauren Katz
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
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