CLINTON’S VIEW: A HELL’S KITCHEN STORY
nytheatre.com review by Joshua Scher
Clinton’s View is a collection
of four plays, spanning four decades (sixties through the nineties), all
set in a Hell’s Kitchen apartment building. The frame of the piece is
built by the pseudo-narrator, Clinton O’Grady, a reminiscing
superintendent who teeters along the edge of the chasm of Alzheimer’s.
August 15, 2003
Written by four different writers, the piece maintains a remarkable cohesion often not seen in collaborations of this nature. In a wise narrative choice, a character from one play always makes it into the next. This simple device provides an effective bridge from one piece to another while still allowing for each to maintain its much-appreciated autonomy. Ultimately, this proves a better and subtler framework than Clinton‘s quasi-poetic waxings, which feel more like maudlin unwanted interruptions than narration.
Refreshingly, all four of these plays remember the key to drama: conflict. Within each story are characters with pressing wants, facing difficult (though sometimes contrived) obstacles. Shelley McPherson captures this wonderfully, appearing in two of the pieces as, respectively, an overbearing mother and a cunningly crazy prostitute.
One play in particular stood out for me, Scratching Hell’s Itch. Two Viet Nam vets, an aspiring electronics repair guy, and a dope dealer all collide in this small apartment, each desperately searching for relief from life. Actor Jeff Auer does a fantastic job driving the scene, navigating us through its various peaks and valleys. Unfortunately, the scene’s intensity is diminished by a poor artistic decision: when the play calls for one of the characters to engage in literal self-flagellation, the actor actually inflicts bruises upon himself. Whether due to naivet� or machismo, this staging serves more to distress in a distracting, rather than dramatic way. Apparently, someone forgot that verisimilitude often requires an avoidance of the actual.
All in all, though, a nice collection of some sound storytelling.