Theater Review: 'Clybourne Park'


Theater Review: 'Clybourne Park'


Date: March 19, 2013
by: Paula Atwell | Theater Critic




Bruce Norris, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his 2010 play, “Clybourne Park,” wants to get in your face, down your craw and up in your business. His provocative, satiric comedy cleverly skewers all in sight with its uproarious, liberating exposure of everyone’s inner racist. His characterizations are extremely well observed portraits of human personality traits we are all familiar with but to which we may not have put words. Sublimated feelings pop out of the actors like alien monsters out of space travelers’ chests. The point of the play goes well beyond simple racism, which is shown to be, most importantly, a product of self interest unchecked by fairness. It speaks to our culturally long-held, destructive tribalism, symbolized by a dead, but ever present character, the protagonist’s soldier son who committed suicide after being convicted of killing civilians during the Korean War. 

The play garnered a Tony Award for best play after it appeared in 2012 on Broadway. The story takes place in the same suburban Chicago house as the African-American couple was buying in Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” In Norris’ story, the house belongs to the white family living there in 1959 who sell the house to them, thus precipitating a turnover to an all-black district. This results in a conflict with the neighbors, which is the basis for Act I. 

In Act II, it’s 2009 and the tables are turning again. Whites are buying into the historically significant, downtown-adjacent properties. Another confrontation takes place, this time between the black owners and their new white neighbors who want to turn their vintage charmer into a McMansion.

Michael Donald Edwards directs with no holds barred, thoroughly exploring the boldly written dynamics of the explosive situation and its hilarious characters, who are played by a dynamite cast in dual roles, one in each act. Each part is performed with wonderful wit and nuance by an excellent troupe of actors who have by now become familiar, but never fail to thrill and delight. Douglas Jones plays Russ in Act I, and Dan in Act II; Annabel Armour plays Bev and Kathy; Tyla Abercrumbie is Francine and Lena; Jesse Dornan plays Jim and Tom; Christopher Wynn plays Albert/Kevin; David Breitbarth is Karl/Steve; Sarah Brown plays Betsy and Lindsey; and Jacob Cooper plays Kenneth.


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