×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky

As a blurb it sounds bizarre: In a country-tinged musical at Playwrights Horizons, two friends -- a fortysomething man and 20-year-old woman -- care for each other deeply and well. They never fight or even kiss. They just offer undemanding love as life hurls hardships at each of them.

With:
Floyd - David Cale Clea - Mary Faber

As a blurb it sounds bizarre: In a country-tinged musical at Playwrights Horizons, two friends — a fortysomething man and 20-year-old woman — care for each other deeply and well. They never fight or even kiss. They just offer undemanding love as life hurls hardships at each of them. That setup flouts the idea that conflict means antagonism, and it’s what makes “Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky” so compelling. The tuner, which preemed last year at Chicago’s Goodman Theater, finds life in a type of relationship almost never seen onstage.

Not that these singer-songwriter pals have perfect lives. Texas native Floyd (played by Brit thesp David Cale, who wrote the book and lyrics and co-wrote the music) hasn’t had a gig in years, and now he’s a drunk who lives in his car, unsure how he’ll survive the Montana winter. Clea (Mary Faber) dreams of musical stardom, but she’s chased by the memory of her suicidal father.

The conflict is with inner demons, not between the characters themselves. From their first chance meeting in a parking lot, Floyd and Clea always get along. The action comes as they learn how to use their friendship to fight the outside world.

The production takes a languid pace, letting each scene develop one small facet of the central relationship. Some may find this frustrating, since it’s not always clear how one moment builds off the next, but the pieces eventually form a satisfying picture of how Floyd and Clea save each other’s lives.

Along the way, creatives offer much to savor. Director Joe Calarco stages the show like it’s full of secrets. He lets lengthy silences sit between bursts of Cale’s casual dialogue, so Floyd and Clea always seem able to communicate without words.

Calarco also tucks scenes into corners of the stage — including one muffled moment set in Floyd’s car — which give the impression that we’re privy to something private and meaningful.

Often, we are. Cale tracks everything from drug abuse to failed careers, and his writing matches the production’s subtlety. The finale has one false moment of melodrama, but it doesn’t last long.

Tonal shifts arrive with the songs, whose gravelly blues evoke Lucinda Williams. Performed concert-style toward the audience, they provide emotional context without literally advancing the story.

A major conceit is that Floyd and Clea do not see the onstage band that accompanies every number. When Clea plays Floyd a ditty called “Greedy,” it’s clear he hears only her guitar and not her backing music. This makes the band a metaphor representing the sound in Clea’s head.

Designers enhance the band’s importance. Musicians sit between massive snow banks, bathed in red light, as though they’re melting the snow. Their music becomes a symbol of Floyd and Clea’s friendship, thawing out the chill of their lonely lives.

Faber’s voice alone could warm up the winter. She has the pipes to make Clea’s success believable, and her nuanced acting shows a woman who stops wanting Floyd to replace her father and instead just wants him in her life.

But it’s Cale’s perf that lingers in the mind. Like a flower falling open, Floyd gains confidence in steps so small it’s almost shocking to see the man he’s become by the final song. It’s gratifying, too, since Cale makes him sweet, with his hand flying to his chest in a moment of concern or his Texas drawl cracking when he asks his friend how she’s been. Like the show itself, Floyd has an unassuming presence that bursts with beauty all the same.

Popular on Variety

Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky

Playwrights Horizons; 198 seats; $65 top

Production: A Playwrights Horizons presentation of a musical in one act with book and lyrics by David Cale, music by Cale and Jonathan Kreisberg. Directed by Joe Calarco. Music director, Kreisberg.

Creative: Sets, David Korins; costumes, Anne Kennedy; lighting, Chris Lee; sound, Ken Travis; orchestrations, Kreisberg; production stage manager, Emily N. Wells. Opened Dec. 5, 2006. Reviewed Nov. 30. Running time: 1 HOUR, 40 MIN. Musical numbers: "burntangel@aol.com," "One Foot in the Real World," "I Dread the Night," "Greedy," "Safety Net," "I'll Be Your Secret," "Can I Stay Awhile?," "Linger Awhile," "Help's on the Way," "White Cowboy Hat," "A Simple Life," "White Cowboy Hat" (reprise), "Would You Give a Damn?," "Left Hook," "(We're in It for) The Long Haul."

Cast: Floyd - David Cale Clea - Mary Faber

More Legit

  • David-Alan-Grier-Blair-Underwood

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood to Star in 'A Soldier's Play' on Broadway

    David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood will star in a Broadway production of Pulitzer-Prize winning drama “A Soldier’s Play.” The play, written by Charles Fuller, is set in 1944 and follows a murder mystery centered around the death of black Sergeant Vernon C. Waters (played by Grier) who is found on a Louisiana army base. [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Announces Broadway Cast

    After an Olivier-winning run in London, “The Inheritance” is gearing up for its Broadway debut. The two-part epic has set the cast for its transfer from the West End to the Great White Way. John Benjamin Hickey, Paul Hilton, Samuel H. Levine, Andrew Burnap and Kyle Soller are among the cast members reprising their roles [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Announces 2020 National Tour

    ‘Hadestown’, the eight-time Tony award winning Broadway musical, is set for a national tour in 2020. The show will stop in more than 30 cities including Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and more. The musical is a stage adaptation of the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice and King Hades and his wife [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Listen: Why Jake Gyllenhaal Is His 'Best Self' in the Theater

    Looking for the best possible version of Jake Gyllenhaal? You’ll find it onstage, according to the actor himself. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I am my best self when I’m working in the theater,” Gyllenhaal said on the latest episode Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast, on which he appeared with Carrie Cracknell, the director of [...]

  • Photo: Jeremy Daniel

    'The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical' Gets Broadway Run

    “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” is Broadway bound. The musical adaptation of the franchise about a teenager who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon hits the Great White Way on Sept. 20 ahead of an Oct. 16 opening night. It comes on the heels of an extensive, nationwide tour that took the show [...]

  • Tom Sturridge Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge Celebrate 'Sea Wall/A Life' With Star-Studded Opening Night

    A star-studded audience looked on as Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge returned to the stage for their double monologue performance in “Sea Wall/A Life.” Theater-goers and celebs including Anne Hathaway, Tom Hiddleston and John Mulaney gathered in Manhattan’s Hudson Theatre for opening night, celebrating a show tackling grief, birth and death through the eyes of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content