Presented by The Huntington in co-production with Berkeley Repertory Theatre
By Lynn Nottage
Directed by Taylor Reynolds
Intimacy and fight consultant: Yo-El Cassell
March 24 – April 23, 2023
The Huntington Theatre
264 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
Critique by Kitty Drexel
BOSTON, Mass. — The Huntington reopens its doors to the public after a long hiatus for renovations with Clyde’s. It is written by Lynn Nottage and directed by Taylor Reynolds. Performances run through April 23.
The facade of the Huntington Ave theater remains largely the same. It is as pristine and classic as Symphony Hall across the street, but there are some changes: the new front door is to the right of the old one. It is accessible to wheelchair users! A glowing sign lights the way to the new front door.
Inside, up a ramp is the new box office, but down the hall is the familiar entry to the Huntington Theatre proper. A plaque dedicated on the right to the old box office in the location of the old box office is a nice, nostalgic touch (with kind staff behind glass windows to give advice or point confused patrons in the right direction).
Renovations have kept The Huntington’s architectural frame the same. The first floor has opened a little aid in better flow of patrons past ticket takers. The seating area seems luxuriously expansive; the new, bright red seats are cushy and offer much more knee room. Overhead, star-shaped light fixtures lead us to our seats or to an usher if we forgot our program.
In the basement, the men’s and women’s rooms are replaced with inclusive, gender-neutral restrooms. A single-person stall is outside the mass restroom for individuals who need it.
Everybody in: stalls are sealed for ultimate privacy. Red/green LED lights shine above the stalls. The light changes green to red when the door is locked to indicate if the stall is in use. Handwashing stations are communal which means no excuses.
My spouse turned to me, when we discovered the restrooms were gender-neutral, and said they felt safe. I knew in that moment, no matter what else happened, we would be back to support The Huntington.
There’s a sandwich place serving the trucking community that better than decent sandwiches in Berk County, Pennsylvania. Clyde’s is run by a first-class toxic sum-bitch who runs on misery, Clyde (April Nixon). She employs ex-cons in her diner and says she’s giving them a second chance. Rafael (Wesley Guimarães) and Letitia (Cyndii Johnson) can attest that Clyde only wants a second chance to send ex-cons to prison for longer. Resident mentor and food guru Montrellous (Harold Surratt who delivers lines like a gentle pastor of sandwich fixings and prison reform) attempts to lead the diner toward a grander purpose.
Things at Clyde’s are steady but abusive until Jason, the new guy, (Louis Reyes McWilliams back for more after Teenage Dick). The diner is thrown into upheaval to adjust the tall, skinny, stanky boy with white nationalist face tattoos and a chip on his shoulder. The good folk of the diner commune over their shared struggles staying out of the prison industrial complex (and the forces pushing them back into it). Maybe, if they rely on each other, they can learn to trust and love again. Clyde’s ran on Broadway at the Goodman’s Owen Theatre until October 2022.
Lynn Nottage’s play is 100% brilliant. Taylor Reynolds and The Huntington cast do a kickass job. We saw the simulcast of Clyde’s when it was at the Goodman Theatre. Honestly, we prefer the production now playing: the cast uses the stage better, they have better camaraderie, and we prefer Reynolds’ staging. Boston does it better.
Speaking of which, it’s good to see that most of the understudies for Clyde’s are local. Lorraine Kanyike, Gunnar Manchester, Becky Bass, and Vincent Ernest Siders, I hope y’all get the opportunity to perform for the community that loves and appreciates you. What point is hiring local understudies if those understudies don’t get to perform in their city at least once? Break every leg!
The costume design by Karen Perry and the hair, wig and makeup design by Megan Ellis are stellar. Their work on the character Clyde (Nixon who helped by having BAM-gorgeous genetics) was especially top notch. Perry created a knockoff Gucci outfit with matching fannypack in the first scene that gave an old man sitting next to me heart palpitations. (He complained out loud to his wife.) Clyde’s ensembles got tighter and shorter, but the old man survived the night.
Ellis gave Nixon a new wig in each scene. Clyde’s hair got shorter and blonder until she looked like T-Boz in a Swarovski-inspired pantsuit. Nixon’s cheekbones could cut diamonds.
Meanwhile, Louis Reyes McWilliams looked like he crawled out of a bog and immediately enrolled in that bog’s volunteer army of homeless youths for white Christ. The intricate tattoo work by Hannah Chylinski must have been difficult to create. I appreciate Chylinski’s work the time it took and for the mental and emotional toll it must have taken to create it.
Clyde’s finds joy in making sandwiches and reminds us that the best leader in a business may not be the owner. A good leader doesn’t have to abuse or underpay their employees. That kind of person doesn’t know how to wield power so shouldn’t and/or can’t afford to remain in business. (Full-time employees deserve benefits. Can’t afford it? You can’t afford to be in business.)