Review of the One Man Hip Hop Show, "Clay"
I’m not a fan of hip- hop. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate the impact it has made on our society or certain songs that take me back to my middle school Sadie Hawkins dance days, but I’m more of an alterna-rock kind of gal. This is ironic because my current boyfriend is a Wu-Tang loving, Jay Z worshipping, Biggie quoting fool – but somehow we work. And since I’ve been very busy at work lately and completely neglecting my rap loving significant other, I decided to do something nice for him, and take him to a show that came highly recommended called “Clay”. Described as a one man hip hop show I thought, “not my thing”, but I figured sitting through a ninety minute rap show is a small sacrifice to make in light of how many times my boyfriend has driven me to the airport in the early morning hours or patiently sat through a Grey’s Anatomy repeat before turning back to baseball.
“Clay” is currently being shown at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, a beautiful and stark space that seems like it was made to showcase one person shows. “Clay” is written and performed by Matt Sax, a classically trained actor from the East Coast who wrote the show in response to not making it into a play in college (he attended Northwestern). For four years now, “Clay” has been stunning audiences across the country – opening at Northwestern, then in Chicago, to New York and now Los Angeles, it’s pretty unbelievable that this one person brings that level of energy every night. From the first moment when Sax walks on stage and began rapping I was blown away by first his skill level- never once skipping a beat or tripping on a word and then by the depth of his lyrics, both entertaining and smart at once. The lighting and minimal set design only magnify Sax’s talents and the show's cleverness.
It’s not just 90 minutes of rap though- Sax plays five different characters throughout and mixes in songs, monologues, and beat boxing, displaying his wide range of talents.
The story, a dark tale of a son's struggle to bond with his emotionally absent father, his mothers suicide, his first love, and his journey into Brooklyn to take fifty dollar "hip hop" lessons from his mentor "Sir John" is not light and fluffy- its heavy stuff. The story of young Clifford's life however, pales in comparison to Sax's talents as a rapper/beat-boxer/actor and storyteller. The main character, Clifford, under the guidance of the show's most dynamic character "Sir John" becomes a successful rapper, "Clay" and with success must deal with the demons of his past. The story is moving, simply because of the way Sax tells it, or rather shows it. The audience can tell this actor truly loves hip hop down to his soul, and what better kind of thing to be a witness to?
When I looked around the Douglas Theatre I was nervous at first - most of the crowd were older, season ticket holders (Kirk Douglas Theatre is part of the Centre Theater group which includes The Ahmanson) and I wondered if they had read the preview- they did know this was a hip hop show right? Maybe that's just me being an ageist though. Throughout the performance I looked around the audience, especially during the more intense rhymes and to my surprise I saw rapt faces with smiles and thoughtfulness. At the end Sax got a long and much deserving standing ovation.
Needless to say I highly recommend "Clay", my boyfriend was beside himself, I won some huge girlfriend points to store in the bank for awhile, and since the show I've been rummaging through my old CD collection digging out old Tupac and Tribe Called Quest albums, because maybe I like hip hop more than I thought...
"Clay" is showing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre until October 14th. Get tickets while you can.