by Clark Groome
At the beginning of Lucas Hnath’s sharp and incisive “Hillary and Clinton,” now at the Suzanne Roberts Theater, 480 S. Broad St., until June 26, Alice M. Gatling walks onto the stage and tells the audience that it’s possible, maybe even likely, that in all the billions of solar systems there are likely many planets identical to earth in every way. Some planets are slightly different, a little “off” if you will. And then there are some that have no similarities to our home.
She then sets the scene: New Hampshire, 2008, in a hotel room during Hillary’s run for the presidency. She’ll play Hillary. The lights dim, and the stunning Philadelphia Theatre Company of “Hillary and Clinton” is off and running. She doesn’t tell us whether or not this New Hampshire, this Hillary, this presidential race is taking place on mother Earth, an identical sphere somewhere else or on one of those somewhat different planets. The story simply starts.
Hillary, you see, is losing the primary. Her husband, Bill (John Procaccino), is a former president who’s been something of a womanizer and yet is devoted to Hillary’s campaign and to her generally.
Her campaign manager, Mark (Todd Cerveris), is frustrated with Bill’s participation; Hillary’s considering taking her chief opponent’s offer to pull out of what looks to be a losing campaign and become the vice presidential running mate for her chief opponent (Lindsay Smiling in a role that makes him look a lot like Barack Obama).
It’s a nifty premise. And Hnath’s writing is so good that we learn a great deal about the four characters, particularly Hillary and Clinton, in the whirlwind of a show that lasts just 70 minutes.
Politics, marriage and ambition are among the subjects dealt with in a show that in many ways reminds me of the wonderful TV offerings of Aaron Sorkin, most notably because of its subject matter, “The West Wing.”
“Hillary and Clinton” is both funny and revealing. The crisp dialogue never wanes. It’s non-stop and filled with meaning.
And when the show ends, too soon for my taste because I wanted to hear more of the fascinating talk, we’re reminded that the New Hampshire we’ve been in may or may not be the one we know here on Earth.
Ken Rus Schmoll directs the proceedings with the energy and intensity his material requires. The actors are all just about perfect.
While the physical production, designed by Arnulfo Maldonado (set and costumes), Tyler Micoleau (lighting) and Daniel Perelstein (sound), is first rate, it is Hnath’s dialogue and the terrific cast that make the Philadelphia Theatre Company’s “Hillary and Clinton” such a special theatrical event.
For tickets, call 215-985-0420 or visit philadelphiatheatrecompany.org