Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review of "Harry Clarke"

Who is Harry Clarke?  That is the intriguing question playwright David Cale has posed in the captivating and provocative, and very entertaining, one-man show Harry Clarke.  Starring Billy Crudup in a tour de force performance, the show examines how one man reinvents himself and through good fortune, lies and bravado changes his destiny.

There’s not much more I would want to say about the plot because, as Harry rants to a friend (paraphrasing here): “Why do people read reviews?  They’re just going to spoil the plot.”
Billy Crudup as "Harry Clarke."
Mr. Cale has created a show with enough twists and turns to keep the audience alert and focused.  After leaving the production, two disparate references popped into my head--Seven Degrees of Separation and the movie Down and Out in Beverly Hills.  That’s all I want to say as not to reveal too much.  The playwright has crafted over half a dozen roles that Mr. Crudup fleshes out into full-bodied characters, the central one being Harry Clarke who is a charmer, risk taker and charlatan. The contemporary persona of Harry Clarke is skillfully augmented with enough backstory to present a fully rounded individual that began toying with his sense of self and worthiness at a very young age.

None of the layered complexities and engrossment of the play would be realized without a performer who possesses the intelligence, adroitness, and stage presence as the actor Billy Crudup.  He totally embodies the main character, capturing his every nuance, frailties, and bluster.  One minute he is a shy, almost stuttering boy in the Indiana heartland.  The next he is a self-confident, boastful, English-accented young man cruising the byways of Manhattan.  He subtly infuses each of the other characters with just the right amount of inflection in his voice and body language to convey their essence and individuality.

Director Leigh Silverman brings tension and humor to the production with a tempo that is fast-paced and assured.  She has an outstanding partner in Billy Crudup who makes her job look easy and effortless.

Harry Clarke, a show not to be missed.  Playing in the Village at the Minetta Lane Theatre through May 13th.

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