The specter of 2020 wanes as we drift further into 2021, but the pause on live theater remains. For all that we lost in being unable to see productions in full, live on stage, we have gained in the ongoing efforts of companies like Face to Face Films, whose Theater Interrupted series of online performances offer us an opportunity to connect with the art from the cozy confines of home.
To their credit, Theater Interrupted has taken the cue off stage like a seasoned pro. The professionalism and production of these performances has evolved over the Pandemic Life, to the point where viewing them live or at a time of our choosing is the new norm.
With Hillary & Clinton, director Anthony Laura pays tribute to the 2016 play written by Lucas Hnath. While the title alone evokes strong images and feelings related to the real-life individuals, the concept allows for more flexibility. Told as a tale from an alternate reality—we may well be on one of the infinite parallel earths proposed in the play’s opening scene—and cast with actors who in no way mirror the personalities of Hillary or Bill or Barack, it was the writer’s hope that we may sit and enjoy a story unrelated to the people we know.
And to that end, there is a measure of success. Without the added weight of character impression, we are meant to see Hillary and Bill removed from our personal biases. Stripped down to its core, this is a story of a broken marriage and its future, of the battle with and against emotion, and the disappointment of one woman’s fading dream to be President.
Kristen Hasty and Gabe Calleja carry the load as Hillary and Bill. Both deliver emotionally powerful performances, weaving through the myriad issues that plague their marriage, cutting straight to the heart of what each believes the other carries in blame. Whether they will survive or finally separate, and what that means to each, is a thread throughout. Both actors truly capture the pain and disappointment of a husband and wife reconciling decades of issues.
Jose Duran and Tom Arrowsmith, in the roles of Barack Obama and Mark (Hillary’s campaign manager) respectively, excelled in playing off the often hostile dynamic of Hillary and Bill.
The production of Hillary & Clinton was well handled. With the backdrop of a hotel room on screen, the audience is given a visual cue that offers a sense of place sorely missed from the in-person experience. With subtle cues and narration, actors were drawn off screen smoothly and without intrusion to the continued action.
All in all, Theater Interrupted has seized the opportunity to bring stage-quality performances to audiences at a time when many companies have entirely suspended activity. Hillary & Clinton is another win in the column of Face to Face Films.