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.
In a Second Stage production, 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 keeping her subjects in line through threats and incessant mental cruelty.
Insisting the kitchen staff stick to the traditional sandwich making rules, Clyde lays down as hard a line and as the saying goes "takes no prisoners."
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.
At one point, there's a discussion about the way even truck drivers notice and appreciate an additional sprig of parsley decorating the side of a basic grilled cheese sandwich. Beauty in all its forms soothes the soul.
Everyone took a wrong step at some point in their lives but their inherent humanity is revealed through the banter and flirtations summoned in the kitchen.
Letitia (Kara Young), a wiry bolt of energy, is raising a partially abled child. She engages in a flirtatious exchange with Rafael (Reza Salazar) the highly emotional and fabulous dancer. A new addition, Jason (Edmund Donovan) is not only the least experienced cook, but he's also a white man sporting white supremecist tattoos in the midst of a group of black and brown people.
At the zen center stands Montrellous (Ron Cephas Jones). He encourages and inspires the kitchen staff to find their wonder, their own artistic core through their cooking--both real and fancied.
Montrellous 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 Montrellous who represents a beacon of hope for the future.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis