POST: 'Clever Little Lies' the consequences of an affair

What's it about?

Clever Little Lies is about a conflicted man, Billy, who's choosing between his mundane marriage and his refreshing affair. While making that decision, his parent’s try to guide him. They first advise against the affair, but accidentally mention that an affair needs to be addressed in front of his wife, Jane. In an attempt to protect him, his mother reveals that she herself had an affair. We see the consequences and effects theses affairs have on each character, especially Billy, who makes the final decision.  

What did I experience?

I make my way to the Westside Theater, stop by the box office and when I receive my ticket, I’m instantly shocked. I’m a row away from the stage, and I’m feeling pretty lucky.

I stare at the stage, and there’s something different about this one. Instead of your typical red curtains, we’re presented with these white screens. I can't tell if it's part of the stage or not, and I start to wonder what their use is, if any, to this play. I'm thinking, Maybe it would be used in a dance scene for silhouettes. I later learn that they're used in the play to project the settings. I found that to be one of the coolest things. I felt transported from driving on the expressway to different New York monuments, through the projections. I’m sitting there thinking, You fancy, huh?

The play opens with Billy, a husband with a newborn child, confiding in his father, Bill, about his affair. He describes his marriage as mundane, but his affair as a refreshing new outlook on life. The way his face lit up when he spoke about the affair, I couldn’t help but secretly root for it and his happiness. His description sounded truly magical. The feeling of happiness slowly fades into hesitation, and Billy forces his father to keep the affair a secret. Of course, that doesn’t last long. Billy’s Mother, Alice, easily learns that he is having marital issues. So, she tricks Billy and his wife, Jane, into visiting her to catch up.

The drive there was easily my favorite scene. Billy and Jane get into an argument about why they were invited to his parents, which causes their baby to cry. In an attempt to stop the crying, Billy sings one of my all-time favorite songs, a total throwback, which was "What is Love?" by Haddaway. At this point, I begin to smile and laugh a bit to myself, mouthing the words and trying to match his excitement. He even sung the really high parts, and I'm thinking, DAAMMMMNNN. You're pretty good. Jane joins in, and their baby not only stops crying, but it also starts to smile and dance too. It was a very funny, touching moment, which totally hit me in the feels. 

The two arrive at the house, and this comedy full-of-laughs fades into a serious drama. I instantly go from laughing to tearing up every couple of minutes. Billy’s mother accidentally blurts out that the family needs to address the affair, and in an attempt to save Billy, she sacrifices her own marriage, admitting to her own affair. According to Billy’s mother, "This is what parents do. They help their children. That’s why [they] have them, to help them." At this moment, I’m tearing up. Whether his mother is lying or not, she’s sacrificing herself to protect her child, and I start to remember that that’s what parents do. They sacrifice so much, and in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, I have to call my parents after this and thank them for all that they’ve done for me.

I found this part to be cool also because the two couples mirrored each other.  We have the young couple of Billy and Jane, where Billy cheated on Jane, and we also have Alice and Bill, where Alice cheated on Bill. From here on out, we get to see the consequence of not only keeping the affair a secret but the effect on the relationship itself.

She begins to tell the story of her affair with a young graduate student named Arthur. Bill, thinking that his wife is just trying to protect his son, plays along and says,” Well… was hard” to forgive his wife. As the story continues, Billy realizes that he met Arthur, describing how he wore a backwards baseball cap. We see Bill, as well as the audience, slowly realize that the affair was real, and we see this strong man slowly begin to deflate. Cue heartbreak number one. A sad, old person. My weak spot.

The second heartbreak comes minutes after, when Billy’s mother realizes she meant nothing but a faded memory to Arthur. She attends his funeral and meets his family, only to learn that she was never mentioned. She felt the fear of feeling “completely inconsequential,” and isn’t that what we all fear? Feeling completely inconsequential to the people that meant/mean something to us? Wanting to feel like we made some sort of impact on someone’s life? When she said those two words, I felt her pain, saw the gleam in her eye, and heard the shakiness in her voice. I felt my heart begin to hurt. I wanted to jump into the play and tell her that she may not have meant something to him, but she means so much to those around her. That she isn’t inconsequential.

Billy realizes that his affair wasn’t what he truly wanted, and that he was going to work on fixing his marriage. This, however, led to the destruction of his parents’ marriage, which was tough to watch. It’s clear that the affair hurt Bill and that their marriage seemed irreparable. This is solidified when he promises to meet his wife upstairs but doesn’t. We see him seated in the living room, and I was not okay with this ending. I may have convinced myself that he did in fact go upstairs, and their marriage was going to be okay. What? I like happy endings.

After each show, I love to draw a scene that had an impact on me. When Billy's mother speaks about how she's made no impact on Arthur, that she felt completely inconsequential, it was so heartbreaking. The feeling I had in that moment, and the way she said it, is something I'll never forget.

After each show, I love to draw a scene that had an impact on me. When Billy's mother speaks about how she's made no impact on Arthur, that she felt completely inconsequential, it was so heartbreaking. The feeling I had in that moment, and the way she said it, is something I'll never forget.

The director held a talkback after the show, so I decided to check it out. It was cool to hear about the history of the play, hear from the actors themselves, and even the audience. I learned that the first production was held on George St., and they found that in moments of pain, the audience found humor. The play was a comedy about infidelity, but it showed that there are real consequences. The director opened the floor to a discussion about when the audience realized the affair was real. Some said it was the tiny detail about the backwards baseball cap and others said they didn’t believe it was true until the very end. For me, it was the very end. I kept holding on to the hope that they were all trying to protect each other, and I can’t say that I’m still not holding on to that hope. 

How to see it?


$30 (thru TDF membership)
$49 tickets (thru BroadwayBox)

Clever Little Lies
Westside Theatre Upstairs
thru Jan. 24