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A New York Theatre Guide to... Hillary and Clinton!
Here's all you need to know about the new Broadway play, inspired by the former First Lady herself...
Former First Lady and 2016 Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton has been a loyal supporter of the Broadway community for quite some time, frequently being papped attending a Broadway show or posing with cast members backstage. We wonder if she ever imagined she’d become not only the inspiration for a Broadway play, but to also have it named after her. Since the spring of 2016, Tony Award nominee Lucas Hnath’s thought-provoking piece Hillary and Clinton has been mounted in regional productions in Chicago, Philadelphia, Richmond, and Dallas, and now finds itself basking in the bright lights of Broadway. The production, billed as “primarily a comedy,” officially opened at the Golden Theatre on April 18, 2019, following previews from March 16, and is currently scheduled to close on July 21, 2019.
What’s it all about?
“In an infinite universe, all possibilities exist…” – this is one of the central ideas behind Hillary and Clinton, which is set in a parallel universe in 2008 during a woman named Hillary Clinton’s first run for Presidency of the United States. After the meta aspects of the play and the philosophy of infinite realities are explained, we meet Hillary in her hotel room in New Hampshire. Frustrated with her struggling campaign and her rapidly diminishing funds, she reaches out to her husband Bill, who happens to be a former President of the United States himself, for help. She does this against the advice of her campaign manager Mark Penn, who we also discover is not the greatest fan of Mr. Clinton, despite his widespread popularity. Hillary is losing in the polls to a fresh face with bold ideas who goes by the name of Barack and who has made an offer to Hillary to drop out of the primary race and become his running mate. What then ensues in Hillary and Clinton is a deep exploration of a modern marriage that has been lived out under the scrutiny of the public eye, as well as a theatrical study of politics vs personality and gender inequalities. As one woman strives to break free from the shadow of her husband, is her fate written in the stars or is this an alternate universe where Hillary is the one who triumphs?
Who’s starring in it?
Taking on the role of Hillary is a woman who is steadily becoming Broadway royalty. This marks the eighth Broadway credit for Laurie Metcalf and the fourth appearance in four consecutive Broadway seasons. Although wider audiences will probably know her from her three-time Emmy Award-winning role as Jackie Harris on “Roseanne” (and its evolution to “The Conners”), as well as her Oscar-nominated performance in “Lady Bird,” Laurie has been a loyal, phenomenal talent on the Broadway stage. She has won Tony Awards the past two seasons for her celebrated turns in Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women and A Doll’s House, Part 2 (also written by Lucas Hnath) and has just been nominated again for her current role as Hillary. Opposite her is stage and screen favorite John Lithgow as Bill, himself a two-time Tony Award winner and two-time Academy Award nominee. You will know him from his Golden Globe and three-time Emmy Award-winning role as Dr. Dick Solomon on “3rd Rock from the Sun” and countless Hollywood movies. Hillary and Clinton astonishingly marks his 24th Broadway production on his remarkable résumé.
What’s special about this production?
Although producers have billed the production “primarily a comedy” – and there are plenty of laughs to be had – perhaps the most poignant parts of the play are moments when we get to see a vulnerable Hillary. We see a Hillary wrought with emotion that was rarely seen in public back in 2008 (or even in her 2016 run). Through Lucas Hnath’s vivid imagination, we explore the possible inner workings and tensions of a marriage between two of the world’s most high-profile individuals. We see actors who purposefully avoid physical and verbal impersonations of the famous couple to bring us an intriguing story about a woman and her “curse” - whether that curse is the inescapable attachment to her husband and his past misdeeds or her incapability of securing the top job she is more than qualified for. Both Metcalf and Lithgow share sizzling onstage chemistry and Zak Orth and Peter Francis James give stellar support as Mark Penn and Barack, respectively.
Who would we recommend it to?
If you were fortunate enough to see A Doll’s House, Part 2 and were in awe of the combination of Laurie Metcalf’s performance and Lucas Hnath’s writing, then Hillary and Clinton is a must-see. If you prefer your trips to the theatre short and impactful, then, with a running time of just 90 minutes without an intermission, Hillary and Clinton is also right up your street. But if you’re not an avid theatregoer, we’d recommend this show for all those who love to imagine a glimpse behind-the-scenes of the political arena and for all those who gleefully followed “The West Wing” or “House of Cards.” Yes, those with a keen interest in politics may gain a little more from this production, but if you simply enjoy watching a very human side of almost inhuman public figures unfold, there is most definitely something here for you too.
Hillary and Clinton Tickets are available now.
(Photos by Julieta Cervantes)