By Rebecca Pronsky; Directed by Irene Carroll
Part of the 2018 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Musical
Runs through 10.21.18
FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street
by Sarah Gallegos on 10.24.18
Rebecca Pronsky in Hillary Clinton's Song Cycle: Witness. Photo by Brandon Perdomo.
BOTTOM LINE: Two women process their own feelings about the political climate through a musical imagining of Hillary Clinton’s inner thoughts.
Deidre Rodman Struck, in a blond wig, plays piano renditions of songs ranging from Americana to punk rock as the audience finds their way to seats at cabaret-style tables. Rebecca Pronsky enters, also dressed as Hillary Clinton, interacting with the crowd and handing out American flags—to the people that voted for her. The night I attended, based on the loud cheers on her entrance, it is safe to say the majority of the audience voted for her.
The show that follows recounts Clinton’s life after the election, based on her own words and recollections. The songs range from pointedly comedic (a highlight being the Russian Troll song) to despairingly tragic. As a woman, it is easy to resonate with the material, and Pronsky successfully melds Clinton’s experience with Pronsky's own experience as an American woman in 2018. The show loses some momentum halfway through when some inconsistencies in storytelling drop the energy. However, Struck and Pronsky revive the show with an angry anthem singalong, during which the entire audience is welcome to participate.
Hillary Clinton's Song Cycle is clearly based on a concept album, with a reliance on music over stagecraft. The structure is loose and director Irene Carroll’s staging is limited and sometimes does not help the story progress. If it initially seems confusing that both performers are dressed as Hillary Clinton, it becomes clear as the show progresses that there is a reason for this. Many women in the audience may well relate to Clinton, from the pressure to be seen a certain way to feeling helpless facing a patriarchal society. If every woman can empathize with these experiences, perhaps in some way, American women are all Hillary. I look forward to seeing how Hillary Clinton's Song Cycle develops, and how current affairs continue to shape Struck and Pronsky’s narrative, especially after the upcoming midterms.
(Hillary Clinton's Song Cycle: Witness plays at FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street at Charles Street, through October 28, 2018. Meet at the LIGHT BLUE FringeNYC flag. The running time is 1 hour. Performances are Sat 10/13 at 5:30, Sun 10/14 at 7, Wed 10/17 at 7:15, Sat 10/20 at 8:45, and Sun 10/21 at 3:30. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $22 (plus $3.69 ticketing fee), $16 (plus $3.51) for seniors, and are ONLY available online at fringenyc.org. For more information visit witnesshillaryproject.com.)
Hillary Clinton’s Song Cycle: Witness is written and performed by Rebecca Pronsky (Music and Lyrics) and Deidre Rodman Struck (Musical Direction and additional content), based on the original concept album Witness: Hillary’s Song Cycle by Rebecca Pronsky. Directed by Irene Carroll. Sound Design by Ben Struck. Stage Manager is Jane Silverstein.