“Clybourne Park” on Broadway

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, May 11, 2012 at 12:00 am.

(Photo: Robin Marchant/Getty Images)

Film or stage, stories about race are always risky. Look at the heat The Help and Viola Davis received for telling the story of domestic servants. Halle Berry is still criticized for her edgy role in Monster’s Ball, which won her an Oscar in 2002. In 2010, The Scottsboro Boys on Broadway was protested and closed shortly after opening.  There are some topics that American audiences are not interested in re-visiting, Black or white.  Therefore, the production that takes the plunge to delve into a horrific time in American history better make sure it’s near perfection.  Thankfully, the four-time Tony nominated Clybourne Park gets it right.

The play is a unique spin-off of Lorraine Hansberry’s legendary 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun.  The first half is set at the same Chicago house into which the family from Hansberry’s play would later move.  Conflicts arise when the neighborhood discovers the Black family is moving in. The white family who is moving out is encouraged to stop their neighborhood from being integrated — their Black maid and her husband witness the drama.  The second half is set in 2009 in the same neighborhood, which suffered an economic downfall and is now going through gentrification.

Superbly written by Bruce Norris, Clybourne Park humanly grapples with race and class.  These topics are nothing new, but the conflicts spark fresh, thought-provoking dialogue, once again showing we are not post-racism and there are still residuals of our past that may always remain. In addition, there is a delicate line of entertainment and offensiveness that Clybourne Park masters.  The play goes to the edge, but never falls.

Directed by Obie Award winner Pam Mackinnon, the play presents how racism functions for each person.  Not everyone is an N-word spitting racist.  Not all the white characters are demonized and the Black characters aren’t a woe-as-me tragedy.  The journey is layered and emotive.

The cast, which includes two Black characters (Crystal A. Dickinson and Damon Gupton — remember their names!) and five white characters, are wildly talented, easily making you feel as if you are sitting in someone’s living room versus the Walter Kerr Theatre.  Clybourne Park is a Broadway home-run.

For more information, please visit:  www.clybournepark.com.

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