top of page

3/16/2024     CLYDE'S         Theatrical Outfit



The Road to Redemption can take some very interesting twists and turns, peaks and depressions.  The goal may be to just get by (“chasing ants” as it were).  But even if that goal remains elusive, there may be surprises along the way, fireflies to be caught, lightning in a bottle.


Take the line cooks at Clyde’s, a seedy little truck stop along the highway through Reading PA (location of playwright Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning Sweat.).  They are all ex-cons, trying to ease back into a non-prison world, but bullied and kept low by Clyde, a fierce woman who controls her staff with an iron will, who respects cruelty as strength and dismisses empathy as weakness, who believes more in recidivism than in redemption, and who often sends her employees back to prison if they so much as smile at her.


The goal of these “losers” (to use Clyde’s oft-repeated description) is a paycheck and a modicum of redemption.  Any note respect is so out of reach as to be beyond pipedream.  But somehow, they discover a certain salvation in the “perfect sandwich,” the just-right combination of breads and herbs and sauces and meats and dedication that will express their own pasts and regrets and hopes -- the sandwich that will illuminate their future and taste better than anything they have ever tasted.

There is Monty (Montrellous), the master, the guide, the calm at the center of the storm that exemplifies any busy restaurant work place.  There is Rafael, the grill and fryer guy, an ex-addict struggling to hold onto his sobriety.  There is Tish (Letitia), a Mom of a special-needs child, who doesn’t trust any man, least of all the miserable excuse of a baby-Daddy who can only be counted on for…. well nothing.  And there’s the new guy, Jason, an enigma covered with jailhouse-tattoos that scream hatred and racism and whom some of us may remember from Sweat.


Through the course of many scenes and ninety intermissionless minutes, in which really nothing at all happens (and paradoxically everything is experienced), we witness a sharing of back-stories and sandwich recipes, and a stream of abuse from Clyde. We see these four bond and bicker, eventually realizing they are each other’s best defense against Clyde and a society that would prefer they remain invisible.  Maybe they won’t catch the ants they’re chasing, but maybe (just maybe) they might end up with a few fireflies instead.


Clyde’s is one of the most-produced plays in the country, but this is the first Atlanta staging.  And it is a gripping and inspiring experience, a superb blend of humor and anger and drama and food – just try NOT to leave the theatre hungry for a sandwich.  Director January LaVoy has gathered one of the best ensembles of the year, led by Tonia Jackson’s Clyde, who raises stoic emotionlessness to an art form – who rules the stage from her “order window,” remaining memorable in spite of spending most of the play off stage,


The play is dominated by the four ex-cons toiling at Clyde’s command – Geoffrey Williams as Montrellous (all “Zen” and confident). Tequilla Whitfield as Letitia (filled with energy and anger and sexuality), Marcello Audino as Rafael (exuding good-natured humor and not a little desperation), and Burke Brown as Jason, commanding a serene presence in spite of the hate-filled tattoos covering his face and arms).  These actors are all superb, but their combined ensemble work is a beautifully rendered creation.


Scenic Designers Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay have created an incredibly detailed space, filled with worktables, grills, fryers, detritus, and food-service accoutrements.  It gave me flashbacks to my college summer years working at various fast-food and travel-diner establishments.  Lighting Designer Rob Dillard has created a look that is filled with harsh fluorescent overhead lights but is not afraid to soften to dream-like moments as the cast fantasize about the perfect combination of sandwich ingredients or wander down memory pathways they’d just as soon avoid.


Clyde’s is a memorable play, a well-wrought “sequel” to Sweat, a work-place portrait of flawed characters finding common ground even when that ground is littered with past mistakes and crimes and regrets, with the road to the future is difficult to see, filled with no one who wants them there, least of all the boss who seems to be the only one willing to offer them a lifeline (such as it is).  But, like the ingredients of the perfect sandwich, the right combination of respect and friendship and encouragement can lead to a mouth-watering experience lit, as it were, by a new-found collection of fireflies.


It is a play that is worth diverting from the main highway to experience.


            --  Brad Rudy  (


  #toClydes   #LynnNottage

bottom of page