Theatre Review and Discussion by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray
Gail M. Burns: Clybourne Park is a continuation of Lorraine Hansberry’s iconic 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun. There, we watch the black Younger family’s struggle to escape from the ghetto by buying a home in the all-white Clybourne Park neighborhood in the near northwest of central Chicago. The first act of Clybourne Park takes place in 1959 in the home the Youngers are trying to buy, showing the backlash against the white owners by the same Karl Lindner who attempts to buy the Youngers out of their contract in Raisin. The second act takes place 50 years later, in 2009, and contains some fascinating parallels in both character and plot, even though none of the characters from Act I recur.
Larry Murray: It’s about as daring a play as I have ever sean, a searing evening of theatre that lingers long after the final curtain. It deals honestly with racial issues, and just how scared and uncomfortable some people get just talking to one another about it. It is a hot button topic, but some people just freeze at the mention of the subject. Under the cover of entertainment, this play is very subversive in that it skewers us all for dancing around subjects we are less than comfortable with.
Gail: In exactly two hours playwright Bruce Norris manages to have his cast of seven touch on every uncomfortable human prejudice – race, of course, but also physical and mental disabilities, mental illness, war and veterans’ affairs, religious differences, class warfare, you name it!
Larry: As a play it is incredibly well constructed, with everyone in the cast playing two different roles. And an incredible Kevin Crouch played three, as a matter of fact. That makes the acting a real challenge, especially with such clearly delineated characters, don’t you think?