Don’t go to see “Clyde’s” on an empty stomach. You won’t make it through without some intestinal grumbling and there’s no intermission. This is a show where foodies will wish the program came with recipes, and “Clyde’s” might activate some kitchen creativity afterward. While this seems like a lightweight fun time, this play, which is at Mark Taper Forum until 18 December 2022, serves up some positive philosophical tidbits.
Have you ever stopped at one of these small, unassuming places in the middle of nowhere while you’re on your way to somewhere. There’s often no there there. That’s the kind of place that scenic designer Takeshi Kata suggests from the worn signage. The titular Clyde is a woman (Tamberla Perry) who dresses too sharp and sometimes too sexy for a truck stop diner that she owns and runs. We never get to see the customers, as the action takes place in the kitchen.
When stopping at a hole in the wall restaurant, you might be the unfortunate recipient of the inattention to detail and hygiene of someone like the new guy, Jason (Garrett Young). Under the direction of Kate Whoriskey, Young’s Jason elicits plenty of groans of disbelief and horror.
If you can avoid food poisoning, there’s always a chance you might also find a culinary prize at a small, unassuming diner, too. Led by Montrellous (played with soothing tones by Kevin Kenerly), the ex-cons employed by the manipulative Clyde (“Don’t get too high on hope”) try to find the right bread, the right fixings and the right garnish to make sandwich perfection. This crew of ex-cons strive to elevate the humble sandwiches they make to the level of irresistible.
Prison is a great equalizer and we slowly learn about the journeys of single mom Letitia (Nedra Snipes) who seems unable to shake loose the ties with her ex Keith, the Latino Rafael (Reza Salazar) who has romantic interest in Letitia and the man who would be their spiritual leader, Montrellous. According to Montrellous, well-made sandwich should be about the journey one wants to take the consumer on with each bite and should have one challenging flavor that defies expectations.
Lynn Nottage’s play does defy expectations, with amusing moments and curious culinary combinations that one may be intrigued enough to try. And the play is philosophically fulfilling fare and will give you pause to reconsider the humble sandwich as both a consumer and a creator.
Nottage had two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama 2009 for her 2009 “Ruined” and her 2017 “Sweat.” She was the first and currently only woman to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice. “Clyde’s” is a co-production with the Goodman Theatre.
“Clyde’s” continues until 18 December 2002 at the Mark Taper Forum. For more information, visit Center Theatre Group.