ningerbil (ningerbil) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Book 56- Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris

56. Clybourne Park, by Bruce Norris. This play is a spinoff of "A Raisin in the Sun," and even features two characters -- one in Act 1 and one in Act 2-- from that award-winning play. The two acts are set in two different time periods: 1959 and 2009, and are set in the same house in Chicago. In Act I, it is owned by Russ and Bev, a white suburban couple who are in the process of moving out after the death of their son. A friend had handled the sale and has sold their home to a black family (the Youngers). This upsets Karl (Karl Lindner in A Raisin in the Sun), who is afraid of what will happen to his property values should a black family move into the neighborhood. Karl is especially afraid of the repercussions with his own growing family; his wife Betsy is eight months pregnant. Russ's response to Karl is terse and even vitriolic, and he makes some rather pointed barbs about the hypocrisy of the so-called good neighbors. Caught in between are Jim, a young local minister, who tries to keep the peace along with Bev, who struggles to put a positive spin on everything. Also caught up in the tension is Francine, Russ and Bev's black housemaid, and Francine's husband Albert. Much of the talk about the possible racial integration goes around and over them, and only occasionally directed at them. It's hard to tell which scenario is more discomforting.
In Act II, things have changed considerably. The house has obviously seen better days. What is interesting is that all the actors in Act I reappear in Act II, in different roles- although often with the same personality. This is especially evident with Steve and Lindsey (the actors play Karl and Betsy in the first Act I). Steve and Lindsey are a young white couple poised to tear down the home and build a new house for their soon-to-be family of three. Tom and Kathy are attorneys trying to hash things out, which includes addressing the concerns of Lena (Lena Younger) and her husband Kevin. However, little business is conducted, and their conversation often has eerie overtones of the discussions in 1959. Issues of bigotry -- not just on race -- crop up, and often with explosive results. The ending is left rather vague, and the audience is left guessing as to whether Steve and Lindsey actually go through the the home purchase. The animosity shown during the meeting exposes some major gaps in their marriage.
The very end flashes back to the 1950s, the night when Russ and Bev's son kills himself. It is a brief scene and a bit of an odd ending. But then, this incident is what fuels the actions in much of the rest of the play, so it fits.
I am eager to see this live on stage. There's a lot of humor in the script, but much of it I think will have the audience laughing and squirming at the same time, especially in Act II.
Tags: fiction, play

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