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Art Tue Sep 27 2011

Steppenwolf's Clybourne Park Hits Close to Home

ClybournePark-1.jpg

(left to right) Cliff Chamberlain, Kirsten Fitzgerald, Brendan Marshall-Rashid, Stephanie Childers and Karen Aldridge in Steppenwolf Theatre Company's production of Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, directed by ensemble member Amy Morton. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

The hotly debated R and G words are taken by the horns in this candid and confrontational two-act play by Bruce Norris.

Set in 1959 in the fictional Chicago neighborhood of Clybourne Park, first introduced to us in A Raisin in the Sun, the first act picks up where Raisin left off, introducing us to the white family who is moving out of their house -- the house that The Youngers in Raisin are so looking forward to moving into.

Act two takes place in the same house, but 50 years later. The dilapidated, graffiti-ravaged house is once again changing hands, but this time to a young white couple -- trailblazers who want to rehab the house for their budding new family.

In this sense, Clybourne park addresses both sides of the card, revealing long-standing racial tensions by way of real estate, and not holding any punches.

The result is a timely and frank play that gives the audience plenty of chuckles but even more nail-biting and seat-squirming, as tension builds so thick you could cut it with a knife. The acting is impeccable, so that we are made adequately nervous and uncomfortable by all the taboos and tongue-slips cascading down this landslide of a plot.

"I think it is a play for white people", Norris relates in an interview with Artistic Producer Rebecca Rugg. "It's a play about white people. It's about the white response to race, about being the power elite, about being the people who have power in the race argument, and what that makes us in the present day -- the contortions that makes us go through. Because on the Left we really, really like to deny the power that we have. We don't want to seem like we're powerful and have the largest army in the world. We want to pretend that we don't. So, while the play is about white people, it's even better if there are black people in the audience because it makes white people more uncomfortable."

That said, this is a necessary discomfort, an excellent and enjoyable production, and well worth the ticket price. After all, entertainment is only art if it makes you squirm a little, right?

Clybourne Park runs through Nov. 6 at Steppenwolf's Downstairs Theater at 1650 N. Halsted St. For tickets and more information, including video interviews with the actors about the show, visit steppenwolf.org.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
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