Uzo Aduba And Ron Cephas Jones Show The Power Of Redemption In Lynn Nottage’s ‘Clyde’s’
Photo Credit: Clyde’s

Tony Award-winning playwright Lynn Nottage brings grace to the quest to create the perfect sandwich in Clyde’s, a Broadway play starring Uzo Aduba and Ron Cephas Jones. The accomplished actors explained why no matter how many Emmy nominations you’ve earned or magazine covers you’ve graced, when you hear the name “Lynn Nottage” you say “yes.”

Jones labeled Nottage a “genius” when speaking to ESSENCE about the production. “She’s one of the most prolific writers that we have right now,” he added.

Aduba was drawn to the story by “the illustrious, beautiful writing and capturing of some of our most forgotten people in our society,” she explained. She also admired the way Nottage “was able to architect characters that felt human,” and “find a seamless blend between the bitter and the sweet,” she added.

Photo Credit: Clyde’s

Clyde’s follows a group of previously incarcerated people working at a truck stop owned by the cynical Clyde (Aduba). A woman who claims she never shed tears even as a child, the prickly proprietor has little sympathy for the predicaments of those she employs. She slips her pleather boots firmly into the creases of their neck as they reach for a second chance. 

Aduba is an expert at displaying the upper and lower hands in power dynamics. From a brutalized incarcerated person in the Netflix Hit Orange Is The New Black to a commanding therapist in HBO’s In Treatment. Through her role she discovered more about power. “Power needs to be placed in the hands of those who know what to do with it when it’s handed to them,” she declared. 

“I learned the power itself is not necessarily a bad thing, It’s those who may have less than positive, less than constructive intentions with that power,” she continued. 

Photo Credit: Uzo Aduba

The play asks questions like, “What does life look like after? And how do you find a way back into life?” It examines what it looks like to rebuild in a world full of landmines and loopholes. 

“I think those are powerful questions to be asking and face,” said Aduba. “A lot of people who’ve been a part of the system become part of the system. Again, not necessarily because of a laugh or lack of trying, but because of the lack of opportunity to find pathways that could keep out of the system again. And so I think that would be something that needs to be addressed.”

Photo Credit: Clyde’s

The play opens with Jones’ character seeking affirmation after sharing his life story with his employer. When he lays himself bare he is met with a response of “Is there more you wanna say, or can I get on with my life?” The This Is Us star connected to the “solitude and solace and peace” offered by the redemption his character seeks,” he shared. 

“Redemption is a big part of my life and it always will be,” he said. “We have little ways that we constantly redeem ourselves. Life can give you second chances and if you focus on the positive, positive things will happen.”

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The play reflects the self and communal work that takes place when you’re committed to getting something right. In discussing the merits of jalapeño aioli, fresh nutmeg and chopped lemongrass, the employees prove to themselves their ideas and efforts matter. Their intensity leaps off the page, echoing the beliefs that lead millennials to search for identity benefits linked to cool company campuses. 

Cephas Jones thinks hard work is just as special even when it’s not flawless. 

“I think progress is attainable. So that’s the whole idea of progress. Not perfection. If we seek perfection, we’ll never attain it, you know, but if we progress toward perfection, then that’s, it’s all about the journey, not the destination,” he said. 

The production will livestream the last sixteen performances of its run so theater lovers can enjoy the experience at home. According to Playbill, they will offer a number of tickets for $59 “the lowest price point available to in-person audiences.” 

Photo Credit: Clyde’s

Jones has missed the energy of the in person experience. “I’m excited about costumes and hair and makeup and everything,” he said of returning to the stage.

Aduba shares that sentiment. “It’s a place where every person who is in that room, whether you are on the stage or in the audience, you are responsible for helping to create the energy that allows that show to live and exist that night,” she said.

Jones values the camaraderie that comes with a shared accomplishment, whether the goal is properly filling the halves of a brioche bun or telling a beautiful story. He even appreciated “the lunch breaks and being able to hang out with the cast and talk and laugh and bond.” 

Aduba gets it. “There’s something really interesting about human nature too,” she said, “and our desire to create communities.”

Clyde’s is now open on Broadway.  

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