Clybourne Park Resonates with This Brooklynite
A few weeks back I went to see Clybourne Park at the Walter Kerr Theater on Broadway at the behest of their public relations firm. The tickets were free. All views here are honest and my own.
That said, I wanted to see the play, which won the Tony Award for Best Play, because it deals with gentrification very explicitly and the tensions and transition of a Chicago neighborhood over a fifty year period.
The first act of Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize Winning play takes place in 1959 with a white family on the verge of moving out of a house in a segregated neighborhood they’ve just sold to an African-American family.
The second act takes place in 2009, when a white family is set to buy and extensively renovate and enlarge the same house in what is now a hot, gentrifying neighborhood.
The 2009 white couple, played by Annie Parisse and Jeremy Shamos, are clueless about the history and cultural life of a neighborhood they view as an urban ruin.
The play could easily be set in any of a number of Brooklyn neighborhoods, which have undergone massive gentrification in recent decades. The play is essentially a funny/sad, explosive, uncensored and shocking argument between not especially likable characters. But it pulls the audience in and shows just how little has changed when it comes to race and real estate in this country, despite the fact that Barack Obama is sitting in the White House.
The show closes September 1 and I think it’s worth a trip because it will really resonate with any Brooklynite who’s been paying attention to the tensions and transitions in this borough during the last decades related to race, real estate, getting priced out of your own community and other serious conundrums of urban life.
The play pays homage to Lorraine Hansberry A Raisin in the Sun in numerous ways and is ultimately a pretty bleak (though quite funny) report on American race relations since that play’s opening in 1959.