Acting shines in 'Clybourne Park'
By Tricia Stiller
In his multiple award-winning drama, "Clybourne Park," playwright Bruce Norris explores an alternate perspective to the issues of neighborhood politics and the unfortunate human realities that simmer along a fragile line of racial and cultural differences first raised in Lorraine Hansberry's iconic "A Raisin in the Sun," which premiered in 1959, during the early years of the civil rights movement.
In Hansberry's play, we meet the Youngers, an African-American family determined to realize their version of the American Dream by purchasing a new home away from the grip of poverty on Chicago's south side.
When a white resident of their chosen neighborhood learns of their plans, he offers them money not to follow through — he doesn't want to see his property values plummet.
Norris' play is shown from the perspective of the white couple who, after suffering a devastating loss and experiencing unspeakable isolation and abandonment from their neighborhood, choose to sell their home to the Youngers, and then follows, in the second act, with an exercise in progress, illuminating with some discomfort that we still have a long way to go.
Skillfully directed by Lisa Gaye Dixon, Clybourne Park, now playing at the Studio Theatre at the Krannert Center, features a talented ensemble that successfully travels through time from the first act, set in 1959, to the second act, 2009, as the fictional neighborhood, first exclusively white, then exclusively black, attempts to approach — with strained civility — harmonious integration.
Under Dixon's guidance, the cast successfully captures the suffocating awkward moments created by Norris' fast-paced tragic comedy, as each character struggles with their individual and collective truths.
The ensemble comprises Preston "Wigasi" Brant, Cassandra Cushman, Margaret Kellas, Neal Moeller, Nick Narcisi, Akua Sarhene, Ryan Smetana and Henry Steinken.
Scenic designer Joe C. Klug provides the ideal playing space with impressive attention to detail, supported by Lauren Tyler's lighting design and a fine costume plot coordinated by Aimee Beach and featuring the work of the Theatre 550 Costume Design class.
With sensitive subject matter and occasional adult language, this production is intended for mature audiences.
Tricia Stiller serves as director for the McLean County Diversity Project's Theatre Program, the Miller Park Summer Theatre Program and the Penguin Project McLean County. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: University of Illinois Department of Theatre presents the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning "Clybourne Park," written by Bruce Norris and directed by Lisa Gaye Dixon
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 and Nov. 12-16; 3 p.m. Nov. 17
Where: Studio Theatre, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., U
Tickets: $18 for adults; $17, senior citizens; $15, students; $10, UI students and youths
Information: 333-6280, http://www.krannertcenter.com
Note: The play has adult content.