With great expectation, I came Sunday to the Mark Taper Forum to see Clybourne Park the companion piece to A Raisin in the Sun. And while I couldn’t wait to review A Raisin in the Sun I walked away from Clybourne Park wondering how in the world I could talk cogently about this play.
A Raisin in the Sun is an historically seminal play whose classic structure and universal themes make it as relevant today as when it hit the Broadway stage four decades ago.
Clybourne Park is an edgy, raucous, non-traditional, singularly themed play hell bent on hitting the audience upside the head with its assertion that, well, that everyone is racist.
Clybourne Park picks up the story told in A Raisin in the Sun, when a black family has the temerity to purchase a home in an all white 1959 Chicago neighborhood. Their move is met with resistance from the neighborhood association. Act II begins in 2009 when a white family has the temerity to purchase that same, now beaten-up house in an all black neighborhood. Their plans to remodel and build up the house are met with resistance from the neighborhood association. It is a clever device that gives the actors a rare exercise in playing multiple lead characters in one piece. The ensemble clearly enjoys the romp in spite of Pam MacKinnon’s insistence on drawing caricatures of the characters. The well disciplined cast rises above her choice though, especially, Frank Wood whose grieving father of a Korean War Veteran is aptly and plainly brooding, wounded, and morose; as he would be.
Clybourne Park is heading to Broadway from Los Angeles (it is such a joy when we send theater east) and I am confident that like the Sunday night audience at the Taper, folks of all color will wiggle in their seats, laugh loudly at the joke-off in the second Act, and think about race relations in our present day theater of life. Bruce Norris is to be commended for the juxtaposition of the two eras which comprise Clybourne Park, not to mention the hotly funny dialogue.
Clybourne Park runs now through February 26th. For more details and to purchase your tickets for this show, click here.