Clybourne Park: Tackling tough issues with a side of laughter

by Carol, Guest Contributor

I saw Clybourne Park yesterday, at its second preview, and found it delightfully entertaining.  The play’s two acts grapple with the evolving socio-economics of suburban neighborhoods and the inevitable resistance current occupants feel toward change.

In the first act, set in 1959, conflict arises when a neighbor discovers that Francine (Crystal A. Dickenson) and Jim (Brendan Griffen) have sold their house to a black family.  At first with some delicacy, and then with increasing abandon, he expresses his anger with this decision, even attempting to involve the couple’s black maid and her husband in his protest.

In the second act, we jump forward to 2009.  The same actors play a different set of characters. The same house, now abandoned, has been purchased by a yuppie couple.  The neighborhood has become predominantly black middle class, and the residents fear that the couple’s renovation plans will negatively affect the integrity of what has become a historically significant area.

All this sounds, and is, packed with difficult issues.  However, the playwright, Bruce Norris, handles it all with a light touch, simultaneously shocking and amusing us.  The characters’ attempts to express their feelings without offending one another are touchingly awkward and bring the history of politically correct expression into sharp focus, highlighting all that is ridiculous and contradictory between the characters’ desires and how far they dare to express them.

The cast of seven handles the dialogue with perfect comic timing.  Annie Parisse, in particular, who plays a deaf woman in the first act and a scrupulously open-minded yuppie in the second, is perfect. Clybourne Park won the Olivier and the Evening Standards awards for Best Play in 2010 and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2011.   It is a spectacular addition to Broadway this season!

Want to catch Clybourne Park on your trip? It is currently scheduled for a limited 16 week run, so e-mail us at info@newyorkguest.com to secure your tickets today!

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