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Lynn Nottage’s ‘Clyde’s’ is a comedy with great social commentary

Lynn Nottage’s ‘Clyde’s’ is a comedy with great social commentary

“Feisty comedy is on the menu” (Washington Post) in two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage’s latest Broadway triumph.

Creating the perfect sandwich is the shared quest of the formerly incarcerated kitchen staff of Clyde’s, a truck stop cafe. Even as the shop’s mischievous owner tries to keep them under her thumb, the staffers are given purpose and permission to dream—finding that “sometimes a hero is more than a sandwich” (New York Times). This stirring, masterful play from the team of Nottage and director Kate Whoriskey (“Ruined” and “Sweat”) makes its Chicago premiere after its Tony-nominated run on Broadway.

Celebrated creative collaborators for more than two decades, the two women return to the Goodman with “Clyde’s,” which launched the Goodman’s 2022/2023 Season.

“Clyde’s” brings an extra funny performance looking at the industrial prison system and searching the public’s palates for what could be the best sandwich ever!

Nottage uses the setting of a diner frequented mostly by truckers to create scenarios of conversations among four sandwich makers about imprisonment.

The actors for the September 18 performance were Clyde, Danielle Davis; Montrellous, Kevin Kenerly; Rafael, Reza Salazar; Jason, Garrett Young and Letitia played by Nedra Snipes. This was my first time at a performing arts theatre since late February 2020, and it was a delicious treat.

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Clyde is a foul-mouthed, scrappy ex-con with an attitude that makes it easy for her to demean and taunt her employees—she views them as being nobodies because all have done prison time. She delivers her lines expertly and with great conviction.

Montrellous is the king of the group—I would call him a sandwich whisperer, because the other three sandwich chefs cling onto his every word, and an angelic lighting seems to glow whenever he shares his recipe for the perfect sandwich as they are all encouraged to do throughout the 95-minute performance.

Letitia has served time for stealing from a pharmacy to ensure that her special needs daughter is well cared for. She’s trying to hold on to her job as she simultaneously tries to secure adequate childcare.

Rafael is a considerate co-worker who just wants peace around the workspace—which can become very heated and nosey at times. And these distractions and a ghosted date with Letitia cause him to fall off the wagon and begin using drugs again.

And Jason is new to the diner and not trusted by the others, because he obviously has tattoos that are believed to be gang tributes. He’s often late and doesn’t understand the need for any extra effort to make Clyde’s diner any more successful.

As the day wears on, Clyde is constantly ringing the bell for sandwich orders to be taken, as she periodically flirts with Jason while wearing suggestive clothing with matching boots. She is bent on making the crew miserable, while hopping all over each other to answer her commands.

“Clyde’s” is a great, fast-paced play that, in addition to providing humor as the crew concoct delicious sandwiches, also brings to light the situations that landed them in prison and rails against the prison system for reasons that the sandwich makers find unjust.

“I am beyond thrilled to be returning to the Goodman Theatre, which has been so instrumental in nurturing me as a theater artist,” said playwright Nottage, whose works at the Goodman include “Sweat” (2019), “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” (2013), “Ruined” (her Pulitzer Prize-winning world-premiere Goodman commission and co-production with Manhattan Theatre Club, 2008) and “Crumbs from the Table of Joy” (2006). “I can’t wait to share ‘Clyde’s’ with the Chicago community, and with audiences in Los Angeles at Center Theatre Group later this fall.”

Director Kate Whoriskey said, “I’m thrilled to work with Tony Award nominee De’Adre Aziza, Nedra Snipes and Garrett Young—as well as to continue developing this play with our original collaborators Reza Salazar and Kevin Kenerly.”

Chicago audiences are first to experience ‘Clyde’s’ following its Broadway run, where it earned five Tony Award nominations and was critically hailed as a “delightful new play” (New York Times).

A playwright and a screenwriter, Nottage is the first woman in history to win two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Her plays have been produced widely in the United States and throughout the world.

“Clyde’s” is suggested for ages 13 and up. It contains adult language and adult themes. The Goodman is located at 170 N. Dearborn St.

Elaine Hegwood

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader. She is a National Newspaper Publishers Association ‘Entertainment Writing’ award winner, contributor to “Rust Belt Chicago” and the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood: South Side of Chicago.” For info, Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago ( or email: [email protected].

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