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Clybourne Park


Cyrano’s Playhouse Presents:

Clybourne Park

by Bruce Norris

Feb. 7 – March 10


Review by Robert Pond

It’s awkward to be judgmental with a play that has garnered a Pulitzer Prize, an Olivier, a Tony and a host of other nominations.  The comedy/drama has an interesting, if perplexing, playwriting structure that encapsulates racial attitudes and tolerances over a fifty-year period.  During this half century, as the play suggests, the issue of race has changed, but not definitively.  The play explores the issue of race through and not by the characters.  Maybe, it’s in the presentation that makes the sum of Cyrano’s effort with Clybourne Park so jarring.

Clybourne Park, as suggested by the playbill, is two plays that borrow from Lorraine Hansberry’s classic work, A Raisin in the Sun, without offending Hansberry’s drama.  Act one of Clybourne Park is set in 1959 when a black family, the Youngers, is buying a house in a then very white neighborhood, Clybourne Park.  Karl Lindner, a role carried over from Raisin, tries to discourage the owners, Bev and Russ from allowing their house to be sold to a black family.  Bev and Russ are occupied with packing up and leaving the house with too many memories including the suicide of their son, Kenneth.  Act two is set in 2009, in the same house, in what has become a black neighborhood.   A white couple wants to buy it and tear it down to replace it.  Much of act two has a committee in forum to negotiate the intended sale because of the property’s existing regulations.

The play, Clybourne Park, under the direction of Mark Robokoff, is offered as a comedy that houses the more serious subject-race.  Probably more challenging than the volatility of debating race intolerance, is the challenge that render some people near helpless in the accepting of change.    Both acts of Clybourne Park begin like sitcoms with dysfunctional characters that, for a while, housed the drama that bleeds through the staccato dialogue.  The first act seems the better written of the two.  The pace of the production was somewhat inconsistent, although some of the pauses were effective contributions to the timing of line readings.   And, why is it that shouting is still viewed as acting?   There was some static staging and some upstaging of actors in the second act.

As said, there was a gifted cast on the Cyrano stage.  It was entertaining to see the return of Patrick Killoran (Jim/Tom) to the stage; he did not disappoint.  Todd Glidewell (Karl/Steve) is an excellent talent.  He makes an art of playing the two characters with a horrific fear of racial change.  Tiffany Allen was especially good in playing a black women both prior to and after the civil rights milestone.  Well known as a talented singer, Alex Pierce (Albert/Kevin) gave very measured acting performances in both of his roles.  Morgan Mitchell (Betsy/Lindsey), under her controlled hysteria, is a very good comedic actress.  Her melt down was so operatic.

Brian Saylor’s set design was impressive.  One might call his design a scenic costume change.  Between the acts, his set was redecorated with different wall coverings, props, etc bridging 1959 to 2009 during a mere 15-minute intermission.   Frank Hardy is still doing his magic with good lighting designs protecting all that we see.  The Costume Design by Robin Figuroa did very well in having so much to say for the two time periods.

Once it settles, Clybourne Park will be a must see comedy/drama dealing with racial tolerances that may have undergone change, but still has a ways to go.

Clybourne Park will perform at Cyrano’s Theatre through March 10th.



3 Responses leave one →
  1. Pamela Ann McDowell Saylor permalink
    February 12, 2013

    Thanks for the review, Bob. I was interested in your thoughts. I thought the acting was so well done. The first act was the most engaging to me– older brains work more slowly? The second act left me rattled; maybe it was the constant shouting and me being thin-skinned. I don’t know much about script writing, so I can only compare it to other plays I’ve seen. If I have my druthers, I like to be reeled back in to some sort of cohesiveness at the end of a play; doesn’t that come from the script? I do appreciate the amazing effort that everyone put forth! We are so lucky in Anchorage to have such living theater opportunities. I am grateful to everyone who works so hard and with such dedication.

  2. February 20, 2013

    Very perceptive review, Bob. I would add to the comment on the “costuming” of the set by Brian Saylor, the “performance” by the set changers during that busy 15 minute intermission. I don’t remember another production I’ve worked with that had 10 hours of REHEARSAL for the scene change! And then to have Mark-the-stage-manager step in at literally the very last minute, because one of the set changers had to bow out–well, my hats off to the crew, Devin, Alonso, Ethan and Mark. Full disclosure: I was the one who, so to speak, choreographed the intermission flow and action.

    • Robert Pond permalink
      February 20, 2013

      Thank you for your comments and I do appreciate as I remember your reviews. The one show that had 3 rehearsals for scene changes alone was Auntie Mame (not the musical) back in ’58 at West High Aud; the play had 28 scenes that director Brink staged back in the day. Thank you again for commenting. Hope to see you sometime. Take care, ——- Bob Pond

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