Review: Zen and the Art of Sandwich Making

“Clyde’s,” Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, Nov. 16 – Dec. 18, 2022


Nov. 21, 2022 | By Bruce R. Feldman


In Brief: “The best way to get your point across is to entertain,” George Bernard Shaw remarked. Playwright Lynn Nottage has taken his counsel to heart and so have Clyde’s gifted director and exceptional cast, delivering an inventive, spirited, riotous production that also offers as much or as little subtext as any playgoer might want.


"Clyde's" at the Mark Taper Forum (Photo: Craig Schwartz)

Everyone has a story. It’s just that most of the time we don’t know what it is. In Clyde’s and in her earlier play Sweat, Lynn Nottage demonstrates that she is a keen enough observer to uncover the desperation, humor, and aching humanity beneath the surface of the damaged men and women she writes about.


Clyde (played by a marvelously astringent, imperious Tamberla Perry) hires only recently incarcerated criminals to churn out humdrum sandwiches in the truck stop greasy spoon she runs. Here’s the problem: Her four current recruits don’t see themselves as mere short order cooks. They’re chefs who, between slinging tuna sandwiches and burgers, try to give meaning to their bleak circumstances by aspiring to create the perfect, tastiest sandwich they can dream up.


Clyde, of course, has no interest in their fantasies. As the only employer who will hire ex-cons, she’s got a lot of leverage over them, and she revels in it, provoking her staff to burrow deeper into their dreams until the play culminates with a zen moment of – what? – triumph? resignation? epiphany? Nottage leaves it to us to interpret that for ourselves.


From left: Nedra Snipes, Tamberla Perry, Garrett Young (Photo: Craig Schwartz)


Nedra Snipes plays Letitia with gusto, guarded in her emotions but generous of spirit at the same time. Reza Salazar as Rafael weaves and bobs around the kitchen with such exuberance that he sparkles. Both actors give energetic, memorable performances as kitchen hands and potential romantic sparring partners.


They are not the only standouts in this remarkable cast. Kevin Kenerly invests his role as the steady hand Montrellous with authority and compassion. Garrett Young is hilarious as a clueless newcomer in the kitchen. And, again, Perry is terrific as their devilish ringleader, hurling insults while decked out in an ever-changing array of costumer Jennifer Moeller’s superbly trashy outfits.


The atmospheric scenic design by Takeshi Kata and transporting lighting by Christopher Akerlind deserve a nod, too. But apart from the significant contributions they and the cast make, high praise is due to director Kate Whoriskey for a clever, fast-paced production that doesn’t sacrifice entertainment for depth of emotion, or vice-versa. Whoriskey’s firm hand is evident throughout, guiding everyone on to greater glory while serving Nottage’s absorbing storytelling to the fullest measure possible.


“Clyde’s,” Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles (213) 628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org