Review: Clybourne Park

by librarykris on September 13, 2012

The cast of Clybourne ParkIn 1959 a couple sell their house. At 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, their neighbours casually call in to see how packing is going. During the friendly discussion information about the buyers is revealed and tempers flare.  In 2009 members of a community meet at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon to discuss neighborhood covenants before the new couple in the community start making alterations. Although their lives seem similar on the surface, their motivations are different, setting up conflict.

The actors are well cast for their dual roles, one in each era. Gavin Rutherford is superb in the first act as the male half of the couple selling the house. Who knew that so much could be communicated by the way a spoonful of ice-cream is eaten? Nikki MacDonnell plays his wife in the first act with an overlay of nervous tension. In the second she is a self-absorbed lawyer. Nancy Brunning is nicely understated as a maid, then feisty as a neighbour concerned with the history of the area. Paul Waggott is a twitchy minister who just wants everyone to get along for the first act. Jade Daniels spends most of his time on stage not saying much and reacting to the other characters. I particularly liked his physical indecision in the first act and “OMG” reaction in the second. In contrast, Andrew Foster spends a lot of both acts talking. He is totally believable (and funny) in both. Danielle Mason was excellent in both acts.

This play was promoted to me as “equal opportunity offensive” so I was a little bit nervous. Curiously I found it less emotionally offensive than some of the other plays I’ve seen this year.  Some of the content is so outrageous it went straight past my ability to take it seriously.  It was lots of fun.

Kate September 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I love the posters for this! Might have to check it out.

librarykris September 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm

They’re great aren’t they? A sly (and accurate) commentary on the content of the play.

Anne September 21, 2012 at 10:47 pm

As someone who grew up in Chicago in the 1950’s and who was at this play on the first night, I found the characters instead to lack depth. They each had deep pain, limited regard for their own public persona, rage and different ways of coping and staying safe. I didn’t feel that in this production. Also, in the first act, the beginning dialogue was emphasized more than the underlying emotions which were more important.

Karl was more deeply concerned about his property values than the fact that the buyers were black. He had a valid point in that his property values would be lowered and he was trying to control this. The race issue would have been the reason and secondary to his financial concerns and “right to succeed.”

The explosion of Gavin Rutherford was unexpectedly weak and not tied well to Bev’s (his wife) inconsequential chatter which effectively controlled the tension for everyone (including the “colored” maid and the audience).

The Episcopalian priest was so naive for a priest, it was silly. Nancy Brunning as the maid was perfect. Her husband, Albert, not very convincing since he would have been a victim of black male predjudice “keeping him in his place” and I expected more sadness or at least resignation. He knew what was happening but it didn’t show here.

The second act did not really allow me to get a clear picture of who each person was. The gay lawyer might as well not have been gay. He didn’t really seem offended. The woman who bought the property would have been in love with her new house concept and with being a first to break into this neighborhood. She would have felt she was actually helping property values and she would have been in strong denial of being “wrong” of too PC.

Her lawyer was not doing what she was paid to do and seemed sophomoric at times. The jokes in the second act were really just babble and coping mechanisms. In the US you are expected to have a sitcom routine in your pocket when the real issue needs to be glossed over or minimised.

Chicago is full of “real” people and they are serious about their rights to live on their own terms. Thank you for listening.

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