REVIEW: Clybourne Park

I’ve seen CLYBOURNE PARK twice now. I want to love it; I think it’s a brilliant concept, with some really interesting dynamics at play. However, both times I’ve seen it the glaring issues with the script are obvious.  Yet, it’s an important discussion starter and I’m glad its being produced.

The show is essentially a sequel to the classic play, A RAISIN IN THE SUN.  In that must-see work, an African-American family prepares to move to a new home in a white neighborhood.  They are discouraged from doing so by one of the white homeowners named “Karl Lindner.”  In CLYBOURNE PARK, we meet the family who is selling their home and learn why they were willing to reduce the price just to get out of the neighborhood.  Meanwhile, concerned neighbors express their displeasure, including Karl, who is only coincidentally named similarly to Mr. Lindner of Cincinnati and UDF fame.  In Act Two, we fast forward fifty years and address the equally racially-charged topic of gentrification.

I appreciate that CCM Acting chose this piece.  It is contemporary, relevant, and popular. It does seem more challenging to find modern plays with enough roles to be educationally valuable.  The script starts with a lengthy discussion about the origin of Neopolitan ice cream.  It can be quite funny.  But frankly, it feels like the playwright, Bruce Norris, was stretching his 45-minute idea into a sixty-minute first act.  He does it again in Act Two, with discussions of easements and frontage and even after seeing this play a second time I still don’t have a clue who all the people in the room were or why they were there.  Both sections heat up and explode with action by the end, but it ultimately takes way too long to get there.

What did work – without question – is the amazing technical marvel that is the set transition.  At the beginning of Act Two, the set slowly begins to move.  Literally, there were gasps, followed by a rousing ovation of applause and hoots and hollers as the turntable rotated fifty years into the future to show us the same house from Act One in its rundown condition.  Mark Halpin and his team out-did themselves and the crowd definitely appreciated it.

Standout performances the night I saw the show included Duncan Weinland as “Karl,” Neuma Joy as “Lena,” Trey Peterson as “Kevin, Lucas Prizant as “Steve” and Madison Pullman as “Lindsey.”  I had a hard time hearing some of the dialogue and during the middle of Act Two the sound system started to crackle inexplicably with white noise.

CLYBOURNE PARK is an interesting play and an important one. I just wish it were about thirty minutes shorter.

Creative Team
• Richard Hess, director
• Will Graham*, production stage manager
• Mark Halpin, scenic designer
• Nina Agelvis*, lighting designer
• Joanne West*, costume designer
• Jerome Horng*, wig and make-up designer
• Ryan Hurt*, sound designer
• Sammi Grant, dialect and vocal coach

* CCM Student

Cast List
• Matt Fox as Russ Stoller
• Abby Palen as Bev Stoller
• Paige Jordan as Francie
• Charles Gidney as Albert
• Dustin Parsons as Jim
• Duncan Weinland as Karl
• Julianna Weis-Palacios as Betsy
• Lucas Prizant as Steve Driscoll
• Madison Pullman as Lindsey Driscoll
• Carlee Coulehan as Kathy
• Neuma Joy as Lena
• Trey Peterson as Kevin
• AJ Civello as Tom
• Gabe Nasato as Dan
• Austin James Cleri as Kenneth