Review: ‘Harry Clarke’ at Minetta Lane Theatre

By Jonathan Spira on 15 May 2018
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As a boy of eight, Philip Brugglestein realized he didn’t fit into his Indiana surroundings so he invented an alter ego who came from London and spoke the Queen’s English. This was too much for his alcoholic Midwestern father who threatens to take the boy for electroshock therapy in order to turn off the “Britty Brit” accent and persona.

What eight year old would say, “Don’t get your knickers in a twist, darling” to his parents? For one, Harry Clarke, would.

We first meet the casually dressed Philip or is it Harry sitting on a deck chair, the obligatory drink close by on a side table, with what appears to be a blue lake or ocean behind them. It’s here that we begin to get a taste as to what we are in for in David Cale’s one-man play, “Harry Clarke.”

While we skip through the wonder years, so to speak, we really get to know alter ego Harry once Philip’s parents have died, he moves to New York City, and buries his own identity, substituting it with Harry’s. He adopts the mostly posh, occasionally cockney, accent full time. London is where he hails from, although he’s never been there, and his life was spent serving as “tour manager slash personal assistant slash whatever-else-was-needed person” for Sade, of “Smooth Operator” fame (the title of which should be telling) although he really was a barista. For the record, he’s also not been married to a French woman named Sabine.

While Alexander Dodge’s set never physically changes – it’s just a wooden deck, the chair, and the side table, Alan C. Edwards’ lighting transforms it throughout the show from the seaside to a yacht to a New York apartment to a theater.

Billy Crudup’s accents and ability to separate not only Philip and Harry but the many people that Harry meets along the way makes everything seem real, if not at times, surreal. This is particularly brilliant as Harry sleeps his way through an entire family – the wealthy Schmidts – seducing first the son, then the daughter, then the mother along the way.

At this point, Harry is without any doubt a long way from Indiana.

He also doesn’t see himself as doing anything but being himself. “I felt liberated,” he says. “Special. I felt like I was finally being myself.”


Harry Clarke
Minetta Lane Theatre
18 Minetta Lane
New York, N.Y. 10012
Runtime: One hour and 20 minutes

Photo: Accura Media Group)

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