‘Clybourne Park’ echoes the past of its predecessor

By Emily Steinhardt

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Steve (Matt Morris) escourts deaf wife Betsy (Casey Innes) out after an argument with Russ (Daniel Thach). Photo by Emily Steinhardt

Under the direction of Stephen Smith, nine actors successfully brought to life the story of Clybourne Park, the fall drama that ran from Nov. 9-11 and 16-18.

According to DCCC’s website, “Clybourne Park is a razor-sharp satire about the politics of race, written partly as a prequel/sequel to one of the greatest plays ever written in this country, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry.” The play takes place in the same house as A Raisin in the Sun in the same suburb of Chicago.

The first act is set in 1959 as a white family is selling their house to an African-American family. Act two jumps to 2009 as the descendants of the Younger family from A Raisin in the Sun are selling the home to a young white couple as the neighborhood experiences gentrification.

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Francine (Breonna Adams) and husband Albert (Terence Stroman) try to leave as an argument breaks out between family and friends. Photo by Emily Steinhardt

The show comes full circle at the end as it flashes back to 1959 and the audience meets Kenneth (Ben Vuocolo), a character that is mentioned throughout the show but never seen. It was the final moment of the show, and it tugged my heart out as I finally understood many subtle things that were discussed in the play.

In both acts, themes of racism, mental illness, gender, disability, and class are examined at large. The actors portrayed these very relevant topics in a believable manner that mirrored how many people still talk about them today.

The show was chalk full of standout moments from each of the actors. Performers played two different characters from the separate acts that echoed each other. They were all very successful in highlighting those similarities, especially Daniel Thach, Matt Morris, Terence Stroman, and Casey Innes.

Set designer Mimi Smith truly transformed the space. Stage crew and actors helped “change” the set during intermission to show the passing of time in the house by taking off a changeable wallpaper among other things.

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Bev (Samantha Angelina) tries to ask Betsy (Casey Innes) if she wants iced tea. Photo by Emily Steinhardt

Costumes were designed by Samantha Angelina, who was also one of the actors in the show. She captured the feeling of both eras, making it easy for the audience to believe they were back in the 1950’s or 2009.

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Lindsey (Casey Innes) talks with Kevin (Terence Stroman) about travelling around the world. Photo by Emily Steinhardt

Stephen Smith directed yet another fantastic play that “examined ways we still need to reckon with our national history which sadly keeps dividing us” as he said in his director’s note.

Bravo to the cast and everyone involved in such an excellent production.

Contact Emily Steinhardt at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu