"Hillary and Clinton" Review- A world premiere at The Victory Gardens Theater

The Victory Gardens Theater is currently staging the world premiere of “Hillary and Clinton” by Lucas Hnath, directed by artistic director Chay Yew, through May 1, 2016 at the Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. Hnath has a history of writing plays about “iconic” figures, including Anna Nicole Smith, Walt Disney and Isaac Newton. While the author rather disingenuously interviewed by describing the named players in this production as living in “an alternate universe”, there is nothing we don’t recognize about these characters.

Cheryl Lynn Bruce as Hillary and John Apicella as Bill

It is 2008 and Hillary Clinton is in the midst of a failing bid for the presidency. The action all takes place in a bare, spare hotel room somewhere in New Hampshire.There are only four characters. Cheryl Lynn Bruce plays Hillary, who realizes all too well the difference between integrity and selling out-and sells out every time. She also understands clearly that she must steer clear of her husband, but can’t stay away from him, can’t stop relying on him. Bruce does a great job portraying an expressionless matter-of-fact political cypher. John Apicella as Bill  does such a remarkable job that he becomes psychically indistinguishable from the former President. The man is shameless, cloying, politically ruthless, and a past master at manipulating his wife. Hillary warns him away but calls him at the first sign of trouble, and takes him back no matter what he does, as he knows well she will do. It is Bill who figures out how to fix her problems, shape her image, undermine her efforts-and win. Intriguingly, he also provides the money, the moxie, and the muscle. Smarmy and distasteful as he is, he is dependent on her love. He is perhaps at his best when listening behind doors, confessing infidelities, and sobbing quietly.

John Apicella as Bill and Cheryl Lynn Bruce as Hillary

Keith Kupferer, as campaign manager Mark, doesn’t stand a chance either at securing her real confidences, her trust, her affections, or understanding what she does. Well behaved, earnest and steadfast as they come, how can he compete in any universe with Bill Clinton?! Hillary poses before him, lies to him, smokes with him, and ultimately sacrifices him to her husband. Finally, perhaps the most entertaining character, both as written and as portrayed, is Juan Francisco Villa as the nameless, faceless opponent, “the other guy”, because he’s believable and hilarious. On one level fully morally corrupt yet compellingly and almost frighteningly persuasive, especially in the face of the Clintons flexible facades, he gives the staccato, almost robotic lines a human intonation.

John Francisco Villa as the other guy and Cheryl Lynn Bruce as Hillary

This play does not give us any new insights on this distasteful couple, but it does portray their well-known foibles and insecurities in a fearless light.

Keith Kupferner as Mark and Cheryl Lynn Bruce as Hillary

 

For tickets to “Hillary and Clinton”, go to victorygardens

 

All photos courtesy of Michael Courier

 

 

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