By Matt Sax. Dir. Eric Rosen. The Duke Theatre. (CLOSED)
Critics seemed to want to like Clay, Matt Sax's hip-hop solo show with a Prince Hal/Falstaff overlay, which is offered as the first production of Lincoln Center's LCT3, a new programming series to attract younger artists and audiences to the theater. And some of them actually did like it, though some of the reviews were difficult to grade, as they read more like news reports than criticism.
Talkin Broadway A
(Matthew Murray) Practically everything...in this electrifying rap bio...approaches Shakespearean proportions...True, the music (on which Jon Schmidt and Johnny Williams also collaborated) is little more than the bare standard for the genre, all heavy drum beats and chest-echoing bass. But even it assumes the weighty aura of fanfare, in scope and sweep convincing you that that constantly mutating microphone isn't the only indicator of a theatrical visionary coming into his own.
Back Stage A-
(Jerry Portwood) Matt Sax's charm, wit, and vibrant talent are what sustain Clay, a one-man hip-hop musical he wrote as a vehicle for his dynamic skills. The young actor is so beguiling...that it's easy to forget that this is a suburbanized, sanitized version of rapper Eminem's origins: hip-hop as balm for the misunderstood teen soul.
New York Times B
(Charles Isherwood) Less a realistic drama than an urban fairy tale, with Clifford as the lost child with wicked or absent parents...The turns of the plot occasionally smell of soap, and even some minor details may strike you as distractingly unlikely...The music is recorded, which is a shame.
(Michael Kuchwara) An entertaining, fast-paced, 80-minute hip-hop musical...The energetic actor is a vocal and physical chameleon, proving, at least in "Clay," that when it comes to doing sound effects, a rapper's best friend is a hand-held microphone.
(Marilyn Stasio) Opening material is about as lame as it gets as Sax recounts how a sad little boy from Westchester suffers through his parents' ugly divorce and mopes his way from childhood to adolescence. But once the 16-year-old Clifford stumbles into the hip-hop performance of a Brooklyn bookstore owner named Sir John, character and show step into the light...Sax plays some half-dozen other characters in Clifford's life-drama. But these are broad caricatures, propped up with some distinctive body position and a few habitual mannerisms.
Village Voice C+
(Alexis Solosky) Sax, an engagingly nerdy 24-year-old, plays the half-dozen characters in his one-man hip-hop musical. A very young playwright and performer, he's still learning the craft of character. The female figures, in particular--distraught mother, lusty stepmom--seem underwritten, and Sax portrays them with little more detail than crossed legs and strangled alto. But he clearly loves music and gives a sweet rendition of Clifford's discovery and eventual mastery of hip-hop.
Bloomberg News C
(Jeremy Gerard) Sax somewhat resembles the white rapper Eminem, and he moves hypnotically, like a dancer, around the stage...Too bad, then, that Clay is such junk...Sax moves silkily...from one persona to another, and the effects he creates, both musical and, in DJ mode, mechanical, are mesmerizing. Clay, however, is not.
(Adam R. Perlman) Ultimately, the piece feels neither like theater nor hip-hop. It's an uneasy marriage -- better still, that marriage's wedding party -- where we find the unlikely couple all dressed up, on their best behavior, and so cautious that there's no chance of disaster. Sadly, there's no chance of anything interesting happening either.
Talkin Broadway A 13; AP A 13; Back Stage A- 12; New York Times B 10; Variety B 10; Bloomberg News C 7; Theatermania C- 6; Village Voice C- 6; TOTAL: 77 / 8 = 9.62 (B)