Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Don't Sweat the Technique

September 25, 2007

Matt Sax in Clay
Photo: Craig Schwartz/CTG 2007

Or in this case maybe you should. At least that’s my advice for Matt Sax the writer/solo performer of Clay, the opening production of the 07/08 season at Center Theater Group’s Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City. An import from Chicago, Clay is a sort of solo hip hop musical developed by Sax and his director Eric Rosen. It concerns the story of a young man by the name of Clifford who runs away from his terrible home life to be taken under the wing of a similarly damaged but less photogenic African-American sage/ bookstore-owner, Sir John, and trained in the ways of hip hoprosy. And before you can say “Ancient Chinese secret, huh?” the newly renamed Clay has become a star and learned a valuable lesson from the magical "other" about sleeping with your step-mother for revenge but not murdering your asshole father after he finds out about it. Thank goodness for all of Sir John’s admonishments for Clay to stay clear of rapping about drugs, prostitutes, and money.

Actually, the show itself has some redeeming elements. The set design by Walt Spangler is razor sharp and Sax is clearly quite talented as an actor and performer. The music is not unpleasant and Sax can be quite mesmerizing in his vocal imitations of turntable work and the like. What he is missing is what I believe the young people these days call “flow.” His rhymes lumber from his lips even when they’re not supposed to sound like it.

So, while Clay may not be a bad way to spend an afternoon, you’ve got to ask yourself this important question. Do we really need another 8 Mile? Just a thought. Clay runs through October 14th.


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