“Clyde’s” serves up a meal of drama, comedy, and hope

Ryan Czerwonko, Sydney Lolita Cusic & Xavier Reyes wearing white aprons and working in a kitchen
(L) Ryan Czerwonko, (C) Sydney Lolita Cusic & (R) Xavier Reyes in CLYDE’S. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Ex-convicts trying to make a life for themselves after their release

Gabriel Lawrence wearing a chefs uniform and Darlene Hope holding a newspaper and both are in a kitchen
(L) Gabriel Lawrence & (R) Darlene Hope in CLYDE’S. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Last season’s Tony®-nominated play Clyde’s has made its way to the stage of the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick. Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage has created a mix of humor and drama that is indeed a tasty concoction, one that you should experience for a delicious evening in the theater.

The show takes place in the kitchen of a sandwich shop, described in the program as “a liminal space” — a threshold or doorway, a place for a beginning. The staff consists solely of ex-convicts trying to make a life for themselves after their release. They are overseen by Clyde (Darlene Hope), an evil-tempered, over-sexualized, magenta-haired woman whose only purpose in life seems to be to make sure her employees feel as if they have nowhere else to go and that changing who they were is impossible.

Up against Clyde is Montrellous (Gabriel Lawrence), a sandwich-creating genius who counsels patience, encourages creativity, and inspires hope in his colleagues. Rounding out the crew are fry chef Rafael (Xavier Reyes), whose comic macho exterior conceals untapped emotions; Letitia (Sydney Lolita Cusic), a single mother with a weakness for the wrong kind of man; and Jason (Ryan Czerwonko), a former yuppie with anger issues who is the newest addition to the staff.

A photo of the full set design for CLYDE'S.
Set design for CLYDE’S by Ria Rakkulchon. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

The actors have been molded into a workplace ensemble by director Melissa Maxwell, portraying the unspoken bonds between long-time workmates, the slow process of accepting a new addition to the crew, and the life-affirming importance of creating meals. Under Maxwell’s direction, the talented cast rises to the occasion both as an ensemble and in presenting the characters as fully-rounded individuals.

The set, a marvelous recreation of a professional kitchen in a greasy spoon, is the product of designer Riw Rakkulchon, with excellent work done by lighting designer Cheyenne Sykes. The costumes designed by Azalea Fairley enhance the actors’ performances, especially her over-the-top creations for Clyde.

Clyde’s may take a little while for audiences to settle into, but it is well worth the wait. For inspiration, hope, and the importance of creating the perfect sandwich, a visit to Clyde’s will satisfy long after the show ends. I commend George Street Playhouse in finally getting the work of the gifted Lynn Nottage on its stage, and strongly recommend taking the trip to New Brunswick to sample the tastiness that is Clyde’s!

Gabriel Lawrence & Darlene Hope both holding a glowing plate and looking at the plate.
(L) Gabriel Lawrence & (R) Darlene Hope in CLYDE’S. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Clyde’s is presented by the George Street Playhouse at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center through February 19th.  For further information or to purchase tickets, contact the Playhouse at 732-246-7717 or visit georgestplayhouse.org

The wearing of masks in the building is strongly recommended but not mandatory.

In the interests of transparency:  Allen Neuner, Out in Jersey’s theatre reviewer, works at the George Street Playhouse in the Patron Services department.

Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first Broadway play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. Allen has recently been accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association, a professional organization of theatre reviewers. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.