Review: Cast delivers humor, discomfort in 'Clybourne Park' production
What makes the characters in “Clybourne Park” so fascinating is that they are simultaneously funny and cringe-worthy.
That's to be expected as playwright Bruce Norris' drama tackles the nation's touchiest, most enduring issue — racism — and spares no one in the process.
Following its Broadway debut, “Clybourne Park” won the theatrical equivalent of the Triple Crown by winning the 2012 Tony Award for best play, the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for drama and the 2011 Olivier Award for best new play.
The play takes place in one house, but in two acts separated by a half century.
The first act takes place in 1959, as a white husband and wife moving to the suburbs after a family tragedy create neighborhood turmoil by unknowingly selling the house to a black family.
Act 2 takes place in 2009, as a yuppie couple is in the midst of renovating the house in what has become a predominately black neighborhood ripe for gentrification.
Each act could easily be mistaken as a separate one-act play.
But Norris ties them together with a cast of actors who play different characters in each act as well as a common theme and subtle verbal cues.
He chose the title of the play and the address of the house — 406 Clybourne Ave. — deliberately. It's the house that the black Younger family was moving to in Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 play, “A Raisin in the Sun.”
Each and every one of the characters sees him or herself as a person of good will, whether they're trying to give their black maid a silver chafing dish she clearly doesn't want or the couple who can't understand why erecting a McMansion in a neighborhood of modest bungalows might be offensive to longtime residents.
It's not just racism that Norris addresses. Other ghosts of economic, social, mental and sexual intolerance also surface. Despite the politically correct platitudes, we've all become more prickly, outspoken, self-centered and assertive.
In both acts, characters erupt with profanity. Also, there are a couple of jokes exchanged in the second act that are deliberately offensive.
Director Pamela Berlin and the Pittsburgh Public Theater have given it a first-rate production that involves the audience emotionally and intellectually.
Each of the cast of seven demonstrates talent and subtlety as they create completely different personalities for their characters. At various points, you find yourself supporting, and then made uncomfortable by, a character's actions or point of view.
Costume designer Suzanne Chesney provides period and contemporary outfits that help anchor the acts in different times and offer clues to the characters who wear them.
Scenic designer Michael Schweikardt tackles the immense problem of turning the neatly decorated 1959 house into the dilapidated wreck that's being renovated in 2009.
The crew provides a captivating performance as they effect the labor-intensive, carefully choreographed transformation during intermission.
Ultimately, “Clybourne Park” demonstrates that we may have moved on, but we haven't necessarily improved.
The conversation continues. But it's difficult to communicate when everyone is shouting and no one is listening.
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Penguins’ best bet is on Martin
- Burnett’s stellar start paves way for Pirates’ victory over Diamondbacks
- From injuries to front office, Penguins’ season didn’t lack drama
- Bradenton outfielder Barnes burdened by his body
- High risk, reward with 1st-round quarterbacks in NFL Draft
- Experts: If health insurers’ safeguard goes broke, consumers could pay
- Spirit Airlines lifts fortunes of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport
- Elites, media & character
- Rossi: Rutherford falling apart, too
- Riverhounds rout Toronto for 2nd win of season
- Pitt AD Barnes has enjoyed varied career in college sports