By Tulis McCall

Anyone who thinks a sandwich is just a sandwich is invited to go to Clyde’s – if only there was an actual restaurant out there to feed our souls.  You can, however see a marvelous ensemble at work in Clyde’s a Second Stage Production at the Helen Hayes Theatre.  That should soothe something.

Uzo Aduba (Clyde), Ron Cephas Jones (Montrellous), Edmund Donovan (Jason), Reza Salazar (Rafael) and Kara Young (Letitia) are the band of ex-cons slinging sandwiches at Clyde’s, a little joint off the interstate that caters to truckers. The leader is Clyde and the others are the kitchen crew.  It is in the kitchen that the magic happens.

While Clyde is the owner, Montrellous is the leader.  With a Zen attitude about almost everything, he approaches the creation of a sandwich with reverence.  After he got out of the joint, he discovered salvation in the produce aisle where he was seduced by an artichoke.  Went online and found a recipe, cooked it up for himself and his lady and PRESTO life was back in his heart.  He teaches his young colleagues how to respect the sandwich.  Bring your grace and leave the anger outside.  Remember that a sandwich, like life, is about the combination of invention, collaboration, balance and oneness.  Let the chaos go.  Focus.  And the final touch – surprise yourself with an ingredient that doesn’t work.  Yes indeed – LIFE.

This stillness of Montrellous is surrounded by chaos.  Beginning with Clyde who is herself an ex-con.  Clyde’s makes it her mission to hire other ex-cons.  Once that is done her second mission is to chew her workers up and spit them out.  She abuses them verbally, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  She is a steam roller.  Rumor is she sold her soul to the Devil to get this restaurant.  There is a vague mention of “investors” but only a mention.  Or perhaps she is the devil incarnate. We never see what makes her tick.  We see her relentless drive to push people down. Period. Hers is a one-note journey.  And a thankless one at that.  The only element that changes as far as Clyde is concerned is her wardrobe, which is astonishing in its variety.

The kitchen staff folk don’t have that much complexity either, but the the combination of flavors here is what makes the play tick.  They are a well oiled machine made up of oddball characters who wear their hearts on their sleeves.  Each of them made that one stupid decision that ended them up in the clink.  How do they walk past their past and survive and even succeed in this life outside?  It is not easy and Nottage lets us know that without sentimentality.  Their group Zen-moments are inventing sandwich recipes that sound more like arias.  “Baby eggplant parmigiana, black olives, capers….” PBJ with a special addition.  These moments are cocooned inside the chaos that is Clyde.

So we have Clyde plowing over the people like a steam ship and the workers putting up with it out of fear.  There is never a let-up in this scenario which is a problem.  Although it is a very real situation, I can tell you from experience, this is not what we want in the theatre.  We want someone to change, or something to change.  By the story’s conclusion we are nearly as worn down as the workers from this relentless battle between cruelty and hope.

One final blow to this scenario is that this kitchen serves the fewest sandwiches I have ever seen, and the ones that are served are of the yellow cheese on bread or a wrap variety.  They are each placed in a red plastic basket without chips or fanfare.  The few exceptional sandwiches we do see are fleeting.  Therefore we miss out on experiencing the visual reality of the sandwiches that are heralded throughout.

One last point – a personal question here – what happens to all the food that is taken from the order window or thrown in the trash?  That is a passel of potential waste. Even Clyde would chafe at the idea of waste.

Perhaps Second Stage is savvy enough to know where the compost sites are all over the city.  I bet they are.

Clyde’s – by Lynn Nottage, Directed by Kate Whoriskey.

WITH Uzo Aduba, Ron Cephas Jones, Edmund Donovan, Reza Salazar and Kara Young

Sets, Takeshi Kata; costumes Jennifer Moeller; lighting, Christopher Akerlind; sound, Justin Ellington; hair and wig design, Cookie Jordan; production stage manager, Donald Fried; stage manager, Alexandra Hall.

Through January 16th at the Helen Hayes Theater.  Tickets Here

THIS JUST IN Can’t see Clyde’s in person? SECOND STAGE will bring it to you via simulcast!  TICKETS HERE

Clyde’s is currently playing on Broadway at the Hayes Theater through January 16.  In addition to in-person performances, we are pleased to announce that the simulcast option is now available for purchase within the United States for performances January 4 through January 16.

Please note that the simulcast is live, not a recording. It’s the closest to Broadway you can get from the comfort of your home!  You will need to watch at the scheduled performance time, and you will be unable to view the show a second time or at a later date.

Tickets are $59 and can be purchased here.

You will be emailed a link to your streaming ticket after you complete your purchase.


Additional information and FAQ’s can be found here.