Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

On Clover Road
Santa Fe Playhouse
Review by Dean Yannias

Kelsey Landon, Vic Browder, and Chloe Carson
Photo by C. Stanley Photography
Steven Dietz is a prolific American playwright, having written about 40 plays and more than 10 adaptions so far. And yet I had never heard of him until Santa Fe Playhouse decided to mount his 2015 play On Clover Road. Dietz's plays cover all sorts of genres. Into what category does On Clover Road fit? It's billed as a thriller, but it's not the scary kind. Nothing Halloween-y about it. I'd call it "theatre of menace and violence," even though there's no such term.

Film noir aficionados will probably figure out what's really happening in this play sooner than I did. Nothing is as it first appears to be. The setup is that a mother is trying to reconnect with her daughter who ran off or was abducted at age 13. She has been living in a cult called The Farm for the past four years. The mother has hired a deprogrammer to bring her daughter back to her, physically and mentally and emotionally. The meeting place is a shabby room in an abandoned motel, expertly set-designed here by Paige Hathaway. Why such a remote location? That's the first clue that something nefarious is going on, and it wouldn't be fair to reveal any more of the plot. A few of Dietz's choices near the end of the play struck me as kind of phony, but I can't say which ones without giving away too much.

The first part of the play, which is a long conversation between Kate, the mother, and Stine, the deprogrammer, goes on a little too long. However, once the first plot twist occurs, the rest of the show moves quickly through the ninety minute running time, no intermission. Parts of this play are very physical, almost difficult to watch. You fear for the safety of the actors, but that just means that the fight choreography by Sydney Schwindt and Tris Ikeda is exceptional. Likewise, the sound design by Saibi Khalsa, lighting design by Max Doolittle, and props by Emily Rankin are all first rate.

Director Antonio Miniño has brought together an outstanding crew and a fine cast for this production. Kelsey Landon is put through the wringer as Kate. She never gets to leave the stage and Kate is ill-treated by the other characters all the way through. It's a performance remarkable for its authenticity and resilience. Vic Browder is great at creating a completely unlikeable character on stage. It takes guts to be so brutish and brutal. I think his few moments of head-twitching near the end are not something the Stine character would do, but otherwise it's a fully realized portrayal.

Chloe Carson as a cult member also has a difficult role, both dramatically and physically, and she plays it perfectly. I think Patrick MacDonald is somewhat miscast as the cult leader. He gets the sleaze and slime right, but doesn't bring the charisma that would attract lost souls to him. Tris Ikeda has a brief time on stage, acting moonily through all of it.

Would I recommend this play, despite some reservations? Yes, for the acting, directing and stagecraft. It's not fun in the conventional sense, but I do find it enjoyable to see a play that makes you pay attention and is very well performed.

On Clover Road runs through November 18, 2023, at Santa Fe Playhouse, 142 E De Vargas St, Santa Fe NM. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30, and Saturdays at 2:00. There is no performance on October 27th. For tickets and information, please visit