Now on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theater after a stunning debut two years ago, Bruce Norris biting Pulitzer Prize winning drama Clybourne Park begins in 1959 with a couple leaving their Chicago home after many years. Under Pam MacKinnon's expert direction, Russ (Frank Wood) sits in a lounger eating Neapolitan; his wife Bev (Christina Kirk) debates the geographic origin of this ice cream's name, an agreeable three-tier assemblage of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. The colors, while distinct white, brown, and pink, work well together. This savvy play, about race and our unease with the matter, suggests we might do the same, live side by side, and illustrates how we don't, neither in the mid-century nor today.
Helping Bev pack up the house is Francine (Crystal A. Dickinson), the maid, who does not want the chafing dish Bev insists she take. When her husband Albert (Damon Gupton) picks her up, Bev has not let up on her annoying pushing. Fed up, Albert stops her patronizing, "We don't want your things." By this time the house has filled with a sermonizing priest, Jim (Brendan Griffin), and neighbors, Karl (Jeremy Shamos) with his pregnant and deaf wife Betsy (Annie Parisse), insisting the couple renege on the sale of the house to "Negroes." Using Francine and Albert to test his views on why blacks should not live in the neighborhood, Karl asks, Why don't we see "colored people" skiing?' To today's ears the conversation sounds embarrassing, antiquated, and ugly. When in Act II, we fast forward to 2009, with the same fine ensemble acting out a meeting among a new group regarding another sale of this property, the words have changed, but the discourse has not progressed.
On opening night last Thursday, an exuberant crowd including Salman Rushdie, Pauletta Washington, Bobby Cannavale, Bob Balaban, and Martha Plimpton enjoyed a buffet dinner at Gotham Hall, with huge slices of Neapolitan for dessert.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.