Playwright: Lucas Hnath. At: Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: 773-871-3000; www.victorygardens.org; $15-$60. Runs through: May 1
The new play Hillary and Clinton takes place in an alternate universe and, at times, it is out-of-this-world funny. It's a fantasy with some kernels of truth pieced together throughout the 80-minute running time. There are some accurate factslike many people may have forgotten that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was a smoker or that she has had funding problemsso this is a timely reminder.
The set is put together in front of the audience from a blank stage with the classic ghost light placed downstage center prior to the beginning. The space is transformed into a hotel room in New Hampshire on Jan. 6, 2008.
Cheryl Lynne Bruce immediately breaks down the fourth wall, describing the situation as a narrator. A woman named Hillary is attempting to win the Primary Election when her husband Bill arrives at the hotel room to stir things up.
Some facts are left vague, such as who she is up against in the racewhich allows the viewer to come up with his or her own assumptions. Hot topics such as abortion and LGBT rights are not addressed in this show. Instead, new questions are presented, such as if Bill Clinton holds Hillary back in life and if he pull stunts to keep her from leaving him?
Bruce, as Hillary, commands attention and has a powerful stage presence. She spotlights the fighter in Hillary and that is an absolute smart move. John Apicella as Bill could work on the charisma of the man a bit though. Keith Kupferer as Mark, Hillary's campaign manager, does an ample job but needs to be careful of the similarities with the portrayal of this man and his other roles. He constantly works in Chicago with multiple theater companies and has a tendency to deliver lines as throwaways.
These are not caricatures of the real people in our universe. The actors instead go for glimpses of our reality to add to the plot. Audience reaction completely adds to the feel of the production and the actors can even wait another beat after the laughter to make sure the lines are heard clearly. There are some long speeches but director Chay Yew keeps the drama concise with a good running time. The playwright and director allow viewers to come up with their own opinions on what the truth could be in our world and just offer possibilities on what that might be.
Hillary and Clinton makes one ponder about the private life of our potential president with behind-the-scenes alternate-universe entertainment.