What must it feel like to strive for something over the course of your entire life? To know with every fiber of your being that you were custom tailored to reach the highest level of political office in the United States of America-only to result in two devastating defeats? Its difficult to grasp the magnitude of such a loss, but Hillary Clinton knows the reality all too well. So does playwright Lucas Hnath, who has given us an alternative universe into the psyches of the first female presidental candidate and her former Presidental husband, Bill. Laurie Metcalf (Tony nominated for the role) and John Lithgow have been tasked with a Herculean challenge of embodying the power couple in Broadway’s Hillary and Clinton. Both of them succeed beyond the highest expectations.
Hnath is no stranger to mining psychological depths. In 2017’s Doll’s House Part 2, he figuratively and literally re-opened the door to Nora, Ibsen’s groundbreaking feminist hero. Prior to that, he examined what happens when deeply held convictions are challenged in Off-Broadway’s The Christians.
He writes women well. He writes men well. In short, he’s a damn fine writer whose knack for dissection and dialogue shines bright once again at the John Golden Theatre.
Hillary and Clinton is set in a 2008 hotel room. Mrs. Clinton is slipping in the polls. Mark (Zak Orth), her trusted campaign manger, advises her against calling Bill. She calls him–and the volatile nature of their relationship detonates like an atom bomb.
Metcalf and Lithgow are wonderfully attune to one another, thanks largely in part to both Joe Mantello‘s direction–and their natural abilities for perfected acting. Neither waste a single moment in this 90 minute tale.
Peter Francis James, as Barack Obama, also holds his own. While Metcalf and Lithgow create their own interpretations of their real-life counterparts, Francis James suavely embodies the the cool, calm charisma of our 44th leader.
Love them or loathe them, Bill and Hilary Clinton are a fascinating pair. Hnath has given us a lens into their souls and–although it is all speculative–he writes with such sensitivity and perception, it’s difficult to think that these thoughts and words did not cross the minds of our leading players.
The good news here is that we know the ending of this story before the play even begins. The unfortunate news for most is that it does not end well. Still, this is stripped down, minimalistic fare that reminds us of the strengths, struggles, triumphs, and defeats that come with the price of being human.
Hillary and Clinton runs through July 21 at the Golden Theatre 252 W. 45th St. between 8th and Broadway. For tickets and information, visit the box office or order online.