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  Clybourne Park at Steppenwolf Theatre

Clybourne Park

Steppenwolf Theatre
1650 N. Halsted Chicago

On two separate afternoons, 50 years apart, a modest bungalow on Chicago’s northwest side becomes a contested site in the politics of race. September 1959: Russ and Bev are moving out to the suburbs. They’ve inadvertently sold the house to the neighborhood’s first black family and ignited a community showdown. September 2009: the neighborhood is ripe for gentrification and the house is again changing hands. This time to a young white couple with plans for demolition and a knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. In a provocative nod to A Raisin in the Sun, long-time Steppenwolf collaborator Bruce Norris takes a hilarious look at what happens when home becomes a battleground.

Thru - Nov 13, 2011

Price: $20-$75

Stage: Steppenwolf Downstairs Theatre

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 312-335-1650

Running Time: 2hrs, 10mins; one intermission

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  Clybourne Park Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"..."Clybourne Park" is a masterful work for various reasons. Its referents back to the Hansberry play are as inspired as they are logical. Act 1 of the Norris play is set, at precisely the same moment, in the very house where Hansberry's Youngers want to move. Norris focuses on the white family (a couple, played by Judd and Kirsten Fitzgerald) moving out to the suburbs, and the attempts of those in their neighborhood to prevent the sale of the house to a black family. Norris' conceit is that no one realized the race of the buyers until the eleventh hour, which, given the well-documented tactics of some of the fear-mongering real-estate agents of the era, is entirely credible."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Recommended

"...Like Ibsen’s dramas, “Clybourne Park” operates in a mode of heightened, intensified realism that is designed to be shattered with the detonation of a nasty hand grenade. The play creates palpable tension, even if nervous laughter and barely managed decorum serve as safety valves at times. And as in “Raisin,” it shows how people fail to communicate honestly (there is lots of wordplay and geographical-ethnic joking here) until it is too late, and how their dreams become warped out of shape."
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Hedy Weiss

Windy City Times - Highly Recommended

"...So what does happen to a dream deferred? Lofty insights and incisive satire can be quickly reduced to sitcom farce, but while Norris' play has its share of polyphonic uproar, physical humor and even a contest of ethnic jokes, he refuses to indulge our craving for complacency. The conceit of the same seven actors populating both periods emphasizes the theme of social progress being an illusion. Only after the dust has, literally, settled are we offered hope, as a taciturn landscaper and a lonely ghost-in-uniform share the contents of the chest turned up in the former's excavations, and in doing so, celebrate the true legacy of the site they occupy."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Centerstage - Recommended

"... Bev and Russ’ son served in the Korean War and came back mentally damaged and the neighborhood responded by ignoring the whole family. So after a horrible incident, they hastily sold the house to a family who happens to be African American. Neighbors arrive to argue against such a travesty and piles of doublespeak, avoidance and righteous judgment ensues. The second act opens in 2009, 50 years later. The neighborhood has changed and is primarily African American but gentrification is slowly increasing. This time, an African American couple, (Aldridge and James Vincent) tackle the changing tide against oblivious white Liberals. “Clybourne Park” is an interesting drama that uncovers issues of racism and entitlement that have yet to be accurately addressed in this city or country. However, its uneven treatment and gratuitous humor do little to clearly examine these re-occurring problems."

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

Chicago Stage Review - Highly Recommended

"...Bruce Norris weaves a beautiful tapestry out of our bad behavior, carefully crafting a thought-provoking story with engaging characters, marvelous humor and delicate poignancy. No one constructs a story, deconstructs our psyches and then twists the hell out of an ending like Norris.Clybourne Park represents an honest archive of our country’s racial contradictions, a long overdue Pulitzer for this incomparable playwright and a remarkable Steppenwolf production that should not be missed."
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Venus Zarris

Time Out Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...As deftly as Norris traffics in the polite, mannered bigotry of the 1950s, it should be no surprise he seems to take greater pleasure in skewering the well-meaning post-racialism of 2009, which quickly devolves into ugly recriminations. He’s particularly adept at the verbal tactics we use to shield ourselves from uncomfortable topics, as characters stutteringly finish each other’s clichés."
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Kris Vire

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...Norris deftly demonstrates how social attitudes and territorial preservation can become awkward issues to resolve. Norris sure exposes the latent racism of even well-meaning white folks. Since Clybourne Park force white folks to look in a mirror to contemplate their own hidden racial attitudes, the play can spark animated debate and fervent denial. Let the dialogue begin."
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Tom Williams

Chicago Stage Standard - Recommended

"...Bruce Norris is nothing if not subversive. His 2011-12 Pulitzer-winning “Clybourne Park” spans half a century to show that racism has mutated but not diminished. The first act is set in 1959, when Lorraine Hansberry’s “Raisin in the Sun” depicted a black family’s attempt to escape the ghetto by moving to the white enclave in northwestern Chicago called Clybourn Park (actual spelling). Fifty years later when the second act is set, this once-segregated community which had once evolved into another black holding-pen, has come full circle. No longer a victim of “white flight” or black poverty, it’s being gentrified by and for suburbanites who are sick of long commutes and an uneventful lifestyle. The black “homesteaders” are again cutting their losses on an American dream that never pans out."

Lawrence Bommer

Let's Play at ChicagoNow - Recommended

"...I leave CLYBOURNE PARK wanting more! For a playwright known for his in-your-face controversy, Bruce Norris keeps it pretty subtle. From lights up, it’s a slow take-off. The action is limited as I try to determine what is really going-on in the house. The second act has more of Norris’ signature dialogue and clips along. Norris effectively distinguished a tight-lipped generation from a too-much-information one. It’s these and other intentional nuances that give it a satisfying connectivity. It also gives it less than the expected, provocative Norris take-aways."
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Katy Walsh

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...What happens when one group of people push another out and after they have established their roots, good or bad, decide it’s time to come back to what used to be. The opening music to this wonderful, sincere and honest story is Perry Como’s voice on the radio singing “memories Are Made Of This” and this is indeed a house made of memories. There are some secrets that come out early in the first act and are revealed more openly as a flashback to end the second act when while removing an old tree, Dan, the contractor ( played by Judd) finds a trunk that was buried at the end of the first.. Skillfully directed by Amy Morton, this two hour “history lesson” is filled with comedy, as well as honesty and lots of emotion. There are situations that may cause you to become tense, but understand that Norris is really telling us something that most of us have seen in our lives. And he does it brilliantly!"
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Alan Bresloff

Chicago Theater Beat - Highly Recommended

"...Clybourne Park is an example of a powerful new classic built on the foundation of an earlier one. It would be a mistake to think that it rests in the shadow of A Raisin in the Sun – or that it diminishes the earlier work in any way. Clybourne Park stands on its own as a powerful, intriguing, gaspingly funny, and undeniably tragic contemporary masterpiece."

Catey Sullivan

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   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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