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NY1 Theater Review: "Clive"

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Stage and screen star Ethan Hawke is doing double duty in "Clive," the latest offering from the New Group Theatre Company, as he takes on the title role and directs. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

"Clive" is an age-old story based on an old play that delves into the self-destructive behavior of a hedonistic artist. In other words, there's nothing new here, even with a solid effort to update the story in a modern light. Playwright Jonathan Marc Sherman took his inspiration from Bertolt Brecht's first play, "Baal," which he wrote as a 20-year-old. It was shocking in its depiction of debauchery and excess, which likely explains its appeal today.

But despite the obvious talent on display in this production, "Clive" has the earmarks of an interesting idea that is neither pointed nor entertaining enough to make much of an impression.

Ethan Hawke, is both the director and title character and he gives a robust performance as a Billy Idol-style musician who lives for only one thing -- pleasure. Of course, taking place in the '90s, that includes lots of sex, drugs and alcohol. He is a charismatic character, a sort of pied piper of depravity who sucks up and destroys everything in his path.

With the cult of celebrity so pervasive in our culture, you'd expect the story to resonate in a visceral way, but it doesn't. Taking Brecht's lead, Sherman went for an expressionistic style. It's a distancing effect that's supposed to give the audience added perspective. But except for some interesting performances and musical choices, we're left scratching our heads.

Brooks Ashmanskas in multiple roles is always fun to watch. Disappointingly, the women in this play are little more than sex objects. Vincent D'Onofrio has a strong presence even though his character seems to come from another planet.

Ethan Hawke, with his gravely voice, is obviously committed to the role, even if the Clives of the world are old news.

Brecht's best work opened our eyes, allowing us to see the darkest parts of the world in a new light. "Clive" just comes off kind of dim.

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