At first, it might seem Clyde’s, a new play by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, is about sandwiches. But it’s so much deeper than that – it ponders the nature of rehabilitation, dreaming and, um, perhaps evil itself. The titular Clyde’s is a greasy spoon on a lonely Pennsylvania highway. It’s run by Clyde (In Treatment‘s Uzo Aduba) herself in fabulous form dressed in an array of gaudy body-hugging garments that are a running gag. She lords over a kitchen of ex-cons churning out sandwiches while they dream of turning the joint into something much bigger.

Montrellous (Ron Cephas-Jones), who went to prison for his brother so he could go to college, is a sort of the Buddha of the Sandwich, pursuing the perfect mixture of tastes while dreaming of a better life. White ex-con Jason (Edmond Donovan), who sports supremacist-like tattoos, gets all Clyde’s sexual attention. While romantic Raphael (Reza Salazar) falls for Letitia (Kara Young) in a case of unrequited kitchen love. When the staff shows their interest in rising to a higher state, Clyde slaps them back into place. “Don’t disappoint me by having aspirations,” she bullies. “Social hour’s over. Pick up the pace, or tomorrow I can get a fresh batch of nobodies to do your job. And I’ll make sure you go back to whatever hell you came from.”

As the foul-mouth truck-stop diner owner roars orders, her message is clear: don’t dream too big. The audience hears the suggestion that Clyde has sold her soul to the Devil to clear her gambling debts. The amusing-yet-ambiguous finale raises more questions than it answers: is Clyde’s an Earthly Purgatory or is it really Hell?

Clyde’s is now playing at Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theatre. Get your tickets here!

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