Regardless of what one may think of Hillary Clinton and her politics, the play Hillary and Clinton, by Lucas Hnath and directed by Joe Mantello, now on Broadway, is a fascinating study of a woman at midlife trying to make her mark and encountering some serious twists of fate.
The play stars the wondrous Laurie Metcalf—you know her from Roseanne, The Big Bang Theory, and Lady Bird—playing the woman who would be president and Tony award-winner John Lithgow (Third Rock from the Sun, The Crown) as Bill, her husband. The scene is the New Hampshire primary leading up to the 2008 election when there’s an upstart named Barack Obama who’s threatening everything for the former first lady.
Comedy or Tragedy?
This is a fascinating portrait of what might have been going on in Hillary’s head as she navigates the unexpected challenges of her path. The play captures the moment she surprisingly won the New Hampshire primary, just as Obama was gaining momentum as his party’s candidate.
She recognizes how being female can still sometimes be perceived as a liability that can’t yet be overcome.
She contemplates how standing by her adulterous husband both gave her access to power and diminished her hopes for success; she tries to accept that the cult of personality is sometimes stronger than knowledge, experience, and dedication; and she recognizes how being female can still sometimes be perceived as a liability that can’t yet be overcome in the pursuit of political power.
Metcalf gives a riveting performance—making the simple act of opening a Snapple bottle fraught with meaning—and is earning standing ovations. Lithgow is his ever-charming self as a well-intentioned partner who does more harm than good. But one can’t help but walk away feeling as if the play is more tragic than comic as it takes the audience inside the political machine and the obstacles a woman faces trying to achieve what she fiercely believes is her destiny.