Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Clay Makes a Mould All His Own

Clay as himself

“Let me introduce you to my man Clay!”  The hip one man musical with hip hop, yes hip-hop.

Now any skeptic or Broadway buff that might scoff at the idea of hip-hop or any non traditional form of music on a stage.  They might even deign to hide a condescending laugh at the idea of a white guy going to a bookstore of all places and rapping his way to self-actualization. Just watching the first five minutes of “Clay” can change those judgmental notions and there lies the power of Mr. Sax. Matt Sax’s refreshing rhymes and contagiously energetic performance joins the ranks of such musicals as “In the Heights” a Broadway musical with the enterprising Lin Manuel Miranda.

In his performance the set becomes secondary to the point of existing only to complement his acting. The cushy red curtains add to his dramatic acting and there are books to give the impression of a bookstore but that is where the set reaches a limit. Clay’s rush of energy can only be described as a live wire that hit a puddle of water. That small puddle is the stage at New Street Studio’s on 42nd Street. Their productions in general are geared towards attracting “new” younger audiences and after quickly scanning the demographics of the audience it is apparent that their endeavors are successful. Needless to say, he left us all electrified.

Matt Sax’s sensational story line for a poor rich kid from upstate to a lyric spitting machine in Brooklyn is somewhat incredulous but it only serves to enhance his emphasis on performance. He did not just memorize these lines, he also wrote them. The lost youth that finds guidance in an older crabbed version of him self is predictable. It is something of a Hollywood feel good cookie cutter plot.  Yet when one is part of the audience just 6 feet away from him, Mr. Sax makes one forget this. His performance leaves one transfixed on his trembling form.

The mentor he finds in the hooded character of Sir John dubs him “Clay”. “Clay” has an elasticity in his facial features that does credit to his name. Mr. Sax innocently widens his tawny hazel eyes and bends down on his knees emulating the innocent young child Clifford that he used to be. For his parent roles he morphs into the stereotypical busy and nervous types. As the father Mr. Sax slacks his jaw and lowers his voice to a nasal hum. His interpretation of the mother, a cigarette brandishing bundle of nerves with a high-pitched breathy voice to boot ensues hilarity in the crowd.

His ability to adapt and slip in and out of character is chameleon like. It is seemingly effortless with the flexibility of his facial features almost to the point of being enviable. This in not however what Matt Sax tries to do. In writing, acting and composing a one man play he gives himself multiple identities to do justice to the range of characters he can play. It is obvious in the enthusiasm and his laughter that he is not only successful in his career but that he has fun-at plays.