Theater Review: Miami New Drama’s ‘When Monica Met Hillary’ Sets Off Fireworks


Danielle Skraastad as Hillary Clinton and Kyra Kennedy as Monica Lewinsky in “When Monica Met Hillary.”

A cascading question in so many others: What would happen if Monica Lewinsky were to come face to face with Hillary Clinton on a private account?

Playwright Winter Miller imagines this encounter as an intense, disconcerting and revealing final scene in “When Monica Met Hillary,” his Miami New Drama-commissioned play now getting its world premiere at the Colony Theater on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach.

Grounded in fact and Miller’s prodigious research, the play unfolds in a series of concise and quickly moving scenes.

They begin right after White House intern Lewinsky’s first private encounter with then-President Bill Clinton in 1995 and end some 27 years later with the encounter suggested by the play’s title – an encounter that becomes a debate between the 74-year-old former first lady, US senator, secretary of state and two-time presidential candidate, and Lewinsky, 48, who now battles cyberbullying.

Between this beginning and this end, Miller considers the very different trajectories of women’s lives, two extremely close relationships (Lewinsky’s with his mother, Marcia Lewis, and Clinton’s with his increasingly important political associate, Huma Abedin ), and the costs demanded by politics and celebrity. .

The playwright also highlights generational and personal differences in feminist perspectives, viewpoints that explain why Clinton and Lewinsky view the latter’s ruinous relationship with the former’s husband so differently.

“When Monica Met Hillary” is by no means a dry or heavy look at a 1990s scandal and its aftermath.

Miller and director Margot Bordelon turn the attention away from the well-documented public figures of the women, looking instead at how they may have reacted in private moments away from media scrutiny. Heartbreak, fury, humor, calculation, desperation and more come into play as women deal with the fallout from the scandal that was instrumental in the impeachment of President Clinton in late 1998 (he went on to was acquitted in a Senate trial in 1999).

Miller establishes the candid nature of the relationship between Lewinsky (Kyra Kennedy) and his mother, Lewis (Mia Matthews), in the first scene.

Stylish Lewis meets her daughter at an expensive clothing store in Washington, D.C., in mid-November 1995. Lewinsky, so excited she can barely utter a sentence, continues to give her mother a step-by-step graphic narrative stage of what the 22-year-old intern considers a sexy romantic date with the president. Out of breath, screaming more than once, she rejects her mother’s cautionary advice.

Clinton (Danielle Skraastad) appears in the fourth scene, which takes place in January 1998 the morning after her husband confesses that he lied to her about his relationship with Lewinsky.

She angrily strategizes on how to deal with the upcoming fallout and how best to tell their daughter, Chelsea, the truth. Abedin (Rasha Zamamiri), the former first lady’s intern, offers her irate boss everything from soup to empathetic encouragement. Once she’s gone, a completely uncensored Clinton rows her husband on the phone. Obviously, this is not a first offence.

“When Monica Met Hillary” is built in part on parallels as Clinton and Lewis, the older women, care for and raise the younger ones.

When a hunted Lewinsky hides out in the Watergate apartment she shares with her mother, Lewis tries soup (the room’s comfort food), validation, and emotional comfort to stop her broken daughter from doing anything. either drastic.

In a London hotel in 2011, as pregnant Abedin ponders how she will cope with then-husband Anthony Weiner’s first sexting scandal, Clinton offers advice for dealing with the impending crisis and overcoming betrayal. Been there, done it, or as Clinton says, “I know every word to that song.”

In less skilled artistic hands, a “what if” play about a Monica Lewinsky-Hillary Clinton encounter might be unwieldy because it revisits so much history. But “When Monica Met Hillary” is about 80 minutes of often captivating theater presented with clarity and empowering emotional impact.

Augmented with a helpful timeline as a refresher inserted into the play’s program, “When Monica Met Hillary” establishes the changing year and location via lighting designer Yuki Nakase Link’s projections at the start of each scene.

Reid Thompson’s set, a malleable space with pale green and off-white striped wallpaper, quickly transforms from the White House into a series of hotel rooms with the addition or subtraction of doors and different furniture .

Underlined by sound designer and composer Palmer Hefferan, scene changes are so rapid that the room seems to flow continuously. Kudos to director Bordelon for her vision and execution.

With the transformative help of designer Dina El-Aziz’s costumes and Carol Raskin’s wigs, the actors resemble the characters they play enough that, for most viewers, any mental image of the actual women isn’t likely. . Interfere.

Playing Miller’s richly drawn roles, the performers go all-in with the fervor that actors bring to creating a character in an important play.

Skraastad shows us a carefully calibrated Hillary Clinton, a brilliant and ambitious woman who watches every word she speaks in public but drops the filters with Abedin, cursing after a 2007 college campaign stoppage, “Can we all accept d to call attacking another woman’s husband a form of misogyny? And for God’s sake, yes, women are powerful, independent beings with sexual desire and free will! So let’s not take a wife autonomous, let’s infantilize her and call her naive.

Zamamiri’s Abedin has a lot to play for as a woman undone by the idea that she, like her mentor, must navigate a marital scandal — not one, but two. She listens to Clinton’s advice but ultimately chooses another path. Perhaps because the real Abedin chose to remain the woman behind the scenes for so many years of working with Clinton, Zamamiri most often registers as restrained and enigmatic.

As Lewinsky, Kennedy first comes across as energetic and childish, a Beverly Hills rich kid used to validation, a girl who never had to work for anything. Lost after the scandal, taunted online by trolls, she eventually finds purpose. Yet his in-person mea culpa at Clinton, particularly when the conversation veers into #MeToo territory, doesn’t go as planned. And in that critical final scene, the play’s reward, the naturally nervous Monica, doesn’t seem to have grown into a mature woman.

Although Matthews plays the lesser-known character in “When Monica Met Hillary,” her portrayal of Lewis is still assured and to the point in terms of a mother fiercely protecting her daughter, often at the young woman’s expense. As the two visit a nail salon, her suggestions of how her falling-out child could change her life are pretty much earth-shattering.

The final scene of the play, the fulfillment of the title’s promise, combines honesty, convulsions of calculated cruelty and fireworks. His final moments could be heightened. But Miller’s artistic vision is powerful, making it an experience worth sharing and contemplating.

If you are going to

WHAT: New Miami Drama Production, ‘When Monica Met Hillary,’ by Winter Miller

WHEN: 8 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday (a Wednesday at 8 p.m. on March 23); until March 27

OR: The Colony Theater, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

COST: $45-$65

INFORMATION: 305-674-1040; is a non-profit news source for theatre, dance, visual arts, music and the performing arts.

Kendall Hamersly is a longtime Miami Herald editor with more than two decades of experience writing about restaurants. He reviewed hundreds of restaurants in Miami-Dade County, from best to worst.