This is a play
Jonathan Marc Sherman
If you know anything about that play, Baal, or even if you just snoop around a bit - the upshot is that in any language, this Baal character was not a happy chappy. Brecht created a miserable creature on his way down the drain with arms outstretched to see how many people he could scoop up and take with him.
Likewise, Clive (Ethan Hawke) as written here is also on a downward spiral. We find him first with his business people and a few groupies and watch him seduce and reject various individuals. He is more or less stalked by Doc (Vincent Donofrio) whose presence is puzzling but dynamic. We never find out who he is or how he came to be present, although his being Satan may not be off the mark. Clive’s descent is tripped up by a young woman Joanna (Zoe Kazan) who is the girlfriend of a member of Clive’s band. Joanna is a virgin, and that alone is intoxicating to Clive. He must take what is not his, especially if it is untainted. But when Joanna drowns herself in response to being rejected, Clive is more than a bit undone.
Clive stalks his own life as if he were on some evil scavenger hunt – winner take all. He snorts, sucks and staggers his way out of his career, out of his apartment, all the way to Canada where he is ultimately defeated.
On the positive side, this is an excellent ensemble of actors who are so good that at times you cannot tell who is who. The flow of this piece is aided by the ethereal performance of Dana Lyn who provides what sounds like the old Music of the Spheres. As well, the script itself offers fresh style and blunt dialogue.
The downside is that I didn’t care about old Clive, except for the fact that Ethan Hawke is a compelling presence on stage. He is so happy to be there working his butt off, and he nearly explodes with energy, that you cannot help but be pulled in by his work. Nearly all the other actors are every bit as excellent.
No one was good enough to make me care about the character, however. Clive was committing slow suicide and most of these people hopped on the train willingly. Or felt so hopeless that they hopped on the train just to get away from where they were. The choices that they make are so relentless that there is barely space in the theatre to breath. It seems to me that tragedy needs something against which to play – hope perhaps. Something positive offered to make the refusal meaningful.
There was none of that here. Just darkness heaped upon darkness. No light to speak of. No hope to root for. Nothing to mourn. Nothing to write home about. Nothing to remember.
"The current that flows through 'Clive' is oddly sluggish, though, and it only rarely gives off sparks."
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"'Clive' has no pull"
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"Misguided, pretentious flame-out."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"Unfortunately, the jumbled script and sloppy staging provide only unrelenting chaos and shallow characterization."
David Sheward for Back Stage
"An evening of staggering dullness and pretension."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"This amorphous drama severely tries one’s patience even as it wastes the talents of an estimable cast."
David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter
"Finding itself ignored, the audience might feel like tiptoeing out and leaving the players to enjoy their private party."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...