Thursday, January 27, 2011

Miscellany: Clybourne Park review

Ever since the beginning of literature, writers have taken well-known works and imagined them from another perspective. Virgil promoted a secondary character from "The Illiad" into the founder of Rome (sort of the Classical equivalent of Lt. Saavik fanfiction), and the tradition continues to this day, as illustrated by the Caldwell Theatre Company's production of "Clybourne Park."

To get the most out of "Clybourne Park," you'll need to be familiar with Lorraine Hansberry's classic play "A Raisin in the Sun." "Clybourne Park" is both a response and a companion piece: Act I follows the white couple that decided to sell their house to the black family from "Raisin," and Act II is set in the present day, when the now-predominantly black area is being gentrified by yuppies.

"Clybourne Park" could have easily collapsed into a gimmick or pastiche about bigoted white people, but playwright Bruce Norris is careful to point out that prejudice is universal. My main beef with the play is that the plot is pretty flimsy (the second Act is basically a bunch of people having a conversation), but there's an understated, poignant backstory that at least provides a measured end to the production. I don't think "Clybourne Park" really works as comedy, but it sure has tragedy to spare.


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