Robert Moloney, Deborah Williams, Marci T. House and Daren Herbert. Photo by David Cooper.
Races in the Park
by David C. Jones
Bruce Norris wrote Clybourne Park, first produced in 2010, in response to Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun written in 1959 and he, in fact, borrows a character from her play. Norris's Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning play is a social comedy about race and property values. Act One takes place in the 1950’s and Bev and Russ are selling their home after a family tragedy. Because they sold it to a black family, Karl Lindner (the borrowed character) leads the charge to ‘save’ the all-white neighborhood. Act Two takes place 50 years later and the neighbourhood has become an all black one facing the arrival of a white family. The same actors play different characters but many are related to people from the first act.
The situational comedy is often hilarious and sometimes mean as the jokes and awkward situations are all based on race. In Act One the characters are either forced to listen - like the family maid dragged into the argument - or don't listen - like the husband dealing with loss or, literally, the deaf pregnant wife. Come Act Two and the characters can’t stop talking and interrupting or interjecting - often hurting, offending or embarrassing.
The entire diverse cast is very funny and knows how to spin the joke lines and director Janet Wright mostly keeps them all grounded in reality. Marci T. House as Francine the maid and Lena continues to astonish with her range. Robert Maloney finds two different levels of exasperated for both racist Karl and flustered Steve who keeps sticking his foot in his mouth. Another standout in a cast of standouts is Sebastian Archibald playing an earnest priest and then a distracted property lawyer.
Although the whole production is never really emotionally involving it whips by with shocking jokes (“Why is a white woman like a tampon?”) and the likability of a clever cast.
The insanely high ceiling in Ted Roberts' set design was distracting. Also, at times the play seemed to be borrowing from Caryl Churchill, Edward Albee and David Mamet, stylistically. But the audience laughed and cheered and gasped when the “C” word was used and left all agreeing that racism is wrong.
A good, fun time - not profound, but a lot of laughs.