Ethan Hawke, Zoe Kazan Photo: Monique Carboni

Ethan Hawke, Zoe Kazan
Photo: Monique Carboni

by: Sandi Durell

Ethan Hawke has always been a favorite – a talented, creative actor on screen, stage and television. Pushing buttons is the name of the game in “Clive,” currently playing at the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row, West 42nd Street, NYC, in which he stars and directs.

When I see a production and walk out thinking that the best part is the shabby but creative scenic design by Derek McLane, then I know there’s a big open hole somewhere!

Based on Jonathan Marc Sherman’s conception of Bertolt Brecht’s Baal (1923), the decadent, amoral, debasement of this group of merrymakers on stage lust, grope, snort and live in the moment. Clive (Hawke), the leader of the pack, is a musician who is attached to his guitar unless he’s otherwise engaged in sexual encounters, raping, luring, deflowering, drinking or trying blue, brown and other color powders. He is admired, loved and hated by his mates, who play varying roles.

This is a mish mash of muddled debauchery and can’t seem to do enough to prove the point, the characters giving themselves vocal stage directions as they move about, scene to scene.

Although there is an all-star cast in The New Group’s endeavor – – Brooks Ashmanskas (who is always funny, even when he’s serious, or drunk), Vincent D’Onofrio (is he a friend or lover of Clive?- – Both?), Zoe Kazan (who plays several of Clive’s conquests), and the other supporting cast members: Stephanie Janssen, Mahira Kakkar, Aaron Krohn, Dana Lyn (who plays violin and makes Gaines’music & sound sculptures come alive) and the author Jonathan Marc Sherman, the truth or dare beginning at the apartment of a musical big wig, becomes a downward spiral into the bowels of hell which is where Clive winds up as he’s dying amongst a group of Canadian fisherman who utter “a rat dies in the gutter” (too kind). This, by the way, happens to be one of the wittiest scenes as Ashmanskas and another come riding out on brooms with horse heads uttering some funny lines as that scene opens.

D’Onofrio, as Doc, shouts and roars a lot, but has a kind heart. He is Hawke’s one real friend, but meets his maker by Clive’s hand, soon to be seen wearing angel wings sitting on a shelf at the top of the corner of the stage.

Jeff Croiter’s lighting does much to save the day and Catherine Zuber’s costumes are edgy, daring. However, I cared little about any of the characters which is a good barometer, even with this all-star cast.