This is good news for me and for all of us. Imissed this highly acclaimed play when it was off and on Broadway and have beenregretting it ever since. It won multiple awards, including the and the . Seeing it now is as simple as parking your car (free alongthe street, if it's after 7) in downtown Harrisburg.
One of the attractions of 'Clybourne Park' is thatit is a theatrical response to s groundbreaking 1959 play,. That's one of the first plays I saw on Broadway, and itmade an unforgettable impression on me. It's being revived to rave reviews nowon Broadway. is in the lead role, played by inthe original production.
Clybourne Park is a stand-in for an actualneighborhood in Chicago called , where Hansberry's parents movedin 1937, resulting in a fair housing lawsuit. It forms the basis of the plot of'A Raisin in the Sun', which takes its title from the poem,. The poem begins with two questions: "What happens to a dreamdeferred? Does it dry up, like a raisin in the sun?"
'Clybourne Park' spans half a century. It startsin the 1950s, conjoined with the end of 'A Raisin in the Sun', when a blackfamily moves into an all-white neighborhood. That's Act 1, the jumping offpoint. Act 2 is 50 years later, when the issues are economic greed and gentrification,not integration.
"What comes to the surface," director Don Alsedeksaid, "is the prejudice we all have." But Alsedek makes it clear that'Clybourne Park' doesn't preach to the audience. Instead, it's through the useof humor that playwright Bruce Norris wants to make people aware of the racistattitudes that are inherent in all of us.
Norris skewers political correctness as well asracism. The language we use to talk about race and our feelings about it issatirized, with "killer" dialogue that's conversational, Alsedek said. "Norriswrites the way people talk, in revealing sentence fragments."
"It all depends on the actors," Alsedek said. Inthis production he has assembled an ensemble made up of some area theater regulars,including Dan Burke, Jeremy Patterson and , theatre professorat Messiah College.
In Act 1, Smith plays a white homeowner who findsout only belatedly that it's a black family who wants to buy her house. In Act2, she's a real estate lawyer.
"Norris has created a satirical play that gets uslaughing at ourselves," Smith said. "The outrageous and often inhumane ways wetreat each other around issues of race are laid bare in 'Clybourne Park', butsomehow Norris makes this bitter pill a little sweeter."
"Norris entertains us with our mock civility andour dogged commitment to win the argument," she continued. "Civility and correctness are combustible.Their convergence can be both riotous as well as tragic."
"The characters are so committed to both of thesevalues that they inevitably run into conflict. They see a fight or flight response as the onlyoptions. There is no middle groundwhere deep listening and responding can take place. That would be too messy."
And that's the point of 'Clybourne Park', to revealthe perils of that conflict.
"It's wonderful to work with Open Stage," Smithsaid. "They always select plays that are highly entertaining, withaesthetically demanding theatrical values and a provocative theme that keepsthe audience thinking and talking long after the show closes."
"Open Stage celebrates the complexities andfoibles of our human experiences. As humans, we are so funny--gullible, quirky,with flaws and foibles. I love that."
Alsedek continues the thought. "There's nothingvicious or sinister about this play, but there are plenty of 'Aha!' moments."
"The audience will have a good time. It's funny tolook at yourself, recognizing yourself in the play's characters."
If You Go: 'Clybourne Park' Friday through 5/3, 8p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m., Sundays. , 223 WalnutSt. Harrisburg. Tickets: -25; Students, Info: 717-232-6736 or .
EllenHughes previews the fine arts, classical music and performances in the area.E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ellenbhughes.
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