By Jessica Shaw
April 18, 2019 at 07:30 PM EDT
Julieta Cervantes

Hillary and Clinton is about exactly what you think it’s about: Hillary and Bill. But it’s also about Hillary and that last name, and what it means to be attached to a reputation that is not yours alone, to always have an other half that keeps you from being seen as a whole. Whether the word “Hillary” or “Clinton” triggers “I’m with her” nostalgia or #MeToo ire or general disdain of the name will probably impact how you feel sitting through this intermission-free take on an alternate universe where Hillary is campaigning against that little-known guy named Barack (Peter Francis James) during the 2008 presidential primaries. It’s pretty clear how playwright Lucas Hnath feels: Bill (the excellent John Lithgow) is a messy cocktail of needy, cocky, and clueless, walking around in too-short shorts and eating out of a pizza box. “I just like being useful,” he moans with those big puppy dog eyes. Hillary (Laurie Metcalf, in yet another must-see performance) is intelligent, exasperated, and both unable and unwilling to extricate herself from the Clinton “curse.” Her campaign manager Mark (Zak Orth) is no fan of the former president, and Hillary chides him with “You really have a thing about my husband.” In one of the more biting lines of this play, he replies, “A lot of people have a thing about your husband.”

Lithgow and Metcalf, both Emmy-winning veterans of network sitcoms, know every comedic beat to hit. (The set designed by Chloe Lamford and lighting by Hugh Vanstone reminded me of watching politics unfold on TV, something we’ve all become all-too-accustomed to in the last several years.) But it is Metcalf, who seems to have become the exceptional director Joe Mantello’s muse of late (she earned a Tony for their previous collaboration in Three Tall Women and they’ve announced their next collaboration will be Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) who elevates this production with devastating take-downs of her her husband like, “You know given the chance I will eclipse you.” Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, the repercussions of that line, 11 years later, will knock the wind out of you. B+

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