I started writing a rather formal review of Clive but that was no fun. The fact is I'm not a critic, and although educated, not a sophisticated theater goer, so my opinion on the artistic merits would be, well, not worth much. So rather than a review, here are some observations from a Vincent D'onofrio fan after watching three consecutive performances of Clive this weekend.
The music was great, and I wish there were more of it. I don't know if the song sung by Ethan Hawke with decreasing clarity throughout the show is an original work or not, but if it's available on iTunes, I'd like to know. The number of times I've heard a new song and sought it out on iTunes? None. My iPod is full of 70s and 80s stuff. It must have been good.
It accomplished what it set out to do. You don't go into an Indian restaurant and expect steak and baked potatoes on the menu. This isn't mainstream theater and it doesn't pretend to be. It is an intensely dark (although surprisingly funny in places) tale of what happens when the main character, Clive, leads a life so carnal, so destructive, that one by one those who bought into his self-proclaimed awesomeness end up hurt or dead. Including Clive himself. The play tells that tale with great effectiveness.
The cast was stellar, from top to bottom, and they worked together so well. I know I'm biased but I thought Vincent D'onofrio ("Doc") and Ethan Hawke played off each other wonderfully. The scenes which featured Clive and Doc were the most powerful because they were the most authentic. Hats off to both of them.
Vincent D'onofrio knows how to use his size on stage with great effect. His character is supposed to be larger than life and Vincent knows his size can help bring that across so every movement, every step, every facial expression, seems huge. His was a commanding presence.
You will get much more out of this play if you see it more than once. There are many things going on and just like any good movie, you are likely to miss some good stuff if you only give it one shot. Seeing the play 3 times in a row was a luxury most people don't have, but it added so much to my appreciation of the play. (How could I have NOT noticed there were live fish swimming around in a clear bucket of water in the last scene the first two times I saw it? They were live fish for crying out loud!) And the music grew on me too after hearing it a few times. I hadn't planned to see the play that way, but I'm glad I did.
Audiences are like juries. We assume they understand what they are seeing and hearing when to a surprising degree they don't, which is pretty scary. Here are a few examples of what I'm talking about:
Woman behind me: I don't like the set.
Husband: Why not?
Woman: It doesn't match. The walls look grungy and dark and have beer cans in them, but the things hanging from the ceiling look too nice...too luxurious.
(NOTE: the "things hanging from the ceiling" were pieces of beer cans sliced up. I guess we all have different ideas about luxurious means)
Different woman behind me: I know it's based on a play by Brecht but I hope that's not true. I hate Brecht.
(I'm sure they just advertised the play that way to bring in all the diehard Brecht fans out there...a bait and switch kind of thing. And you came to this play why exactly?)
Woman to her husband on the way out: That Doc guy was so evil...what an awful person!
(Doc was probably the only character in the whole play with any redeeming qualities which her husband patiently pointed out)
And, my personal favorite:
Woman to her friend on the way out: Too bad they had to get an understudy for Vincent Onofrio.
(Not only did she not know what he looked like, she couldn't pronounce his name. I almost got violent with this one.)