(Cover Photo: John Morello and Robin Shropshire in a scene from Pilgrim Soul Productions' staging of Lucas Hnath's "HILLARY AND CLINTON" now playing in Shrewsbury, MA. through September 18, 2022. Photo by Christopher O'Connor)
By Kevin T. Baldwin
"We poll well with the poor...but the poor don't have money"
Written by Lucas Hnath
Directed by Eric Butler
Cast Includes: Robin Shropshire, John Morello, Adam DeCoste, DJ Burr
September 10 and 16, 2022 at 7:30pm
September 11, 2022 at 7:00pm
September 18, 2022 at 2:00pm
Black Box Theater in the Ryken Center at Saint John’s High School, 378 Main Street, Shrewsbury, MA.
$25.00; Under 18 and Seniors $22.00; Groups of 10 or more $20.00
Reservations: To reserve tickets call 508-296-0797, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets are also available at the door. Cash or check only.
(Photo: Adam DeCoste and John Morello in a scene from Pilgrim Soul Productions' staging of Lucas Hnath's "HILLARY AND CLINTON" now playing in Shrewsbury, MA. through September 18, 2022. Photo by Christopher O'Connor)
Pilgrim Soul Productions presents "HILLARY AND CLINTON” and...
Wait! Republicans! Come back! Lucas Hnath’s “HILLARY AND CLINTON” is NOT about what you think it may be about.
…Or is it?
Hnath's 90 minute play supposedly exists in “an alternate universe” and, just by some silly coincidence (??), focuses on a politician who just so happens to be named Hillary Clinton (Robin Shropshire) and, as fate would have it, is running for President of the United States.
Only here the twist is this "universe's" candidate is running for president against the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in 2008…Barack Obama (played here by D.J. Burr).
See? And you thought it was going to be about the OTHER guy, didn’t you?
The four person one-act play actually premiered in 2016 and didn’t open on Broadway until 2019 where it ran (including previews) from March to June.
(Photo: John Morello and Robin Shropshire as the Clintons in a scene from Pilgrim Soul Productions' staging of Lucas Hnath's "HILLARY AND CLINTON" now playing in Shrewsbury, MA. through September 18, 2022. Photo by Christopher O'Connor)
Thanks to the extremely effective staging by Eric Butler for Pilgrim Soul Production's "HILLARY AND CLINTON," there is no attempt to do impersonations of either Hillary (Shropshire) or Bill Clinton (John Morello) nor of future president Obama (Burr), and that instruction from the outset is one of the strengths of Hnath's script.
Thanks to the adroit performances of Shropshire and Morello, the Clintons depicted here are not caricatures - they are a real couple, dealing with their relationship.
They have a long history as a couple and it is a history that, in the best of times and worst of times, has all played out scrutinized by the public eye.
It is just before the New Hampshire primary and, at the start of the show, Hillary is seen pacing in her hotel room.
The single set drama is sparsely decorated with a hotel bed at one end and a desk at the other end. This minimalist approach proves quite effective for the piece. Precise use of isolated lighting punctuates the more pivotal conversations between the characters.
Hillary's campaign has been struggling and she is contemplating ways for it to regain momentum.
Many different aspects of the Clintons' relationship are discussed throughout the play. Yet the primary reason (no pun intended) Bill has joined Hillary on the campaign trail in New Hampshire is because she is struggling in the polls and she reaches out to him to visit.
Because she needs money. For her campaign.
Through Hnath's thought-provoking dialogue, Shropshire and Morello make us see the Clintons in a more subdued spotlight - not a political spotlight, not playing to the camera - we experience the Clintons in an honest conversation about something that matters most to Hillary.
Come on - What other "depth" was one expecting from two highly public power brokers? Position is not an important thing for these Clintons - it is the only thing.
(Photo: John Morello and Robin Shropshire in a scene from Pilgrim Soul Productions' staging of Lucas Hnath's "HILLARY AND CLINTON" now playing in Shrewsbury, MA. through September 18, 2022. Photo by Christopher O'Connor)
Adam DeCoste gives one of the nights' best performances as Hillary's campaign manager, Mark, who attempts at being a reassuring, stabilizing factor for Hillary.
However, Mark's loyalty to Hillary is tested when Bill intercedes on Hillary's behalf upon the campaign trail which Bill was previously kicked off - by Hillary.
Hillary seeks to understand why she cannot seem to connect with those same voters who stuck by Bill while he was president, even though his highly contentious, highly publicized "worst of times."
Yes, even in this universe, a cigar in the Oval Office seemingly might have had a certain significance.
One of the play's final scenes involves a critical meeting between the Clintons and Obama and the no holds barred political gamesmanship is on full display, revealing the participants' agendas.
The greatest aspect Shropshire brings to the character of Hillary is a meticulous sense of confidence.
This Hillary believes in her heart and soul that, as President, she truly could do more to benefit of this universe's America than any male president who came before...including Bill.
This Hillary, and probably the infinite number of "Hillarys" existing in the play's proposed "multiverse," is also a politician's politician and is unapologetic and brazen about her political path forward, just like any man...including Bill.
There were some occasional volume issues as the cast competed with the black box theatre air conditioning system but most of the time the dialogue was loud enough to be heard.
"HILLARY AND CLINTON" is one of "Two Marriage Plays" being performed in repertory through September 18 and is a wonderful way to kick off Pilgrim Soul’s 2022 theatre season.
Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association
ABOUT HILLARY AND CLINTON
In an alternate universe light-years away from our own is a planet called Earth.
It looks a lot like our Earth, except it’s slightly different.
And living on this other Earth is a woman named Hillary.
Hillary is trying to become the president of a country called the United States of America.
It’s 2008 and she’s campaigning in a state called New Hampshire.
She’s not doing very well in the polls.
She needs more money to keep the campaign going, so she calls her husband for help.
He offers her a deal, a tough deal, but when she gets his help, she gets more than she bargained for.
You may think you know where this story is going, but you don’t.
After all, the play takes place in an alternate universe where anything can happen.
“…HILLARY AND CLINTON is an audacious, whip-smart, highly entertaining piece of writing.” —Chicago Tribune.
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