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'Hillary and Clinton' is a clever, complex black comedy on the unique dynamic between former first couple

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

Peter Francis James plays Barack Obama and Laurie Metcalf plays Hillary Clinton in "Hillary and Clinton" on Broadway. (Photo by Julieta Cervantes)

Peter Francis James plays Barack Obama and Laurie Metcalf plays Hillary Clinton in "Hillary and Clinton" on Broadway. (Photo by Julieta Cervantes) (Julieta Cervantes)

Aside from Bill and Hillary, Hnath's little minuet of thwarted ambition also includes Mark (Zak Orth), the campaign manager whose main job is to repeat Do Not Let Bill Come to New Hampshire, all the while knowing that she will. And, of course, Barack (Peter Francis James), in this play a masterful political player with an innate understanding of the delicate art of restraint. He knows he is the junior talent. But all he has to do is let the maximalist Clintons (plural) implode, and he'll be on top. It's not a bad summation of what really happened in 2008.

So just because Hnath's genre is different doesn't mean his work is less substantial. If you're bringing up the Clintons -- who are still very much around -- on the Broadway stage, it's incumbent on you to draw upon larger questions -- of marriage, of pragmatism, of why the heck Bill got away with so much.

I've liked this play since I first saw its premiere in Chicago -- and, in Metcalf and Lithgow, it now has two in-sync old pros, demonstrably aware of the capriciousness of fame and power.

Of course, this is not a charitable portrait of two dedicated public servants. Both appear without their pants at times -- Hnath reduces them to hotel room obsessives, navigating their greatest challenge.

 

Each other.

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