Trending
MOST READ
Beaches Be Trippin\': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Beaches Be Trippin': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Arts & Culture: Let’s face it, most of us Lone Stars view the Texas coast as a poor man’s Waikiki. Hell, maybe just a poor man’s Panama Beach — only to be used... By Callie Enlow 7/10/2013
Chris Pérez, Selena’s Husband, Faces His Past and Looks Forward, Musically

Chris Pérez, Selena’s Husband, Faces His Past and Looks Forward, Musically

Music: Chris Pérez never saw it coming. “All I ever wanted to do was play guitar,” he told the Current. “I never thought I’d be the subject of an interview... By Enrique Lopetegui 8/28/2013
Chris Perez, husband of slain Tejana icon Selena, tells of romance, suffering

Chris Perez, husband of slain Tejana icon Selena, tells of romance, suffering

Arts & Culture: In one of the final chapters of his book To Selena, With Love (out March 6), Selena's widower Chris Perez mentions that Abraham Quintanilla, his former father-in-law, once... By Enrique Lopetegui 3/7/2012
Veg Out with Earth Burger

Veg Out with Earth Burger

Food & Drink: “Do you want cheese on that?” “Yeah, sure.” “Vegan or organic?” “Um, what? Where am I?” By Jessica Elizarraras 7/23/2014
Savage Love: The Boys in the Bandwidth

Savage Love: The Boys in the Bandwidth

Arts & Culture: I am a gay man and have been in a relationship with my GGG boyfriend for more than three years. We are in our early 20s and have a... By Dan Savage 7/23/2014
Calendar

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email

Arts & Culture

‘Clybourne Park’ Take on 50-year-old ‘Raisin’ is Slightly Stale

Photo: Siggi Ragnar, License: N/A

Siggi Ragnar

Gary Hoeffler’s Russ is a bundle of misanthropic wit


Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and John Updike’s novel Gertrude and Claudius put the cast and universe of Shakespeare’s Hamlet to fresh uses. Clybourne Park, too, recycles a familiar play–Lorraine Hansberry’s earnest 1959 drama A Raisin in the Sun. Bruce Norris sets his 2010 piece in the living room of 406 Clybourne Street, the same house that the African-American Youngers are preparing to move into at the conclusion of A Raisin in the Sun. The property is in an all-white Chicago neighborhood, and the Youngers have rejected a buyout from the homeowners’ association to keep them from integrating the block.

Set in 1959, the first part of Norris’ two-act play (which includes a superfluous coda), focuses on the white couple, Russ and Bev, who are about to move out. A painful family secret explains why the two are so eager to leave that they are willing to unload their house on a black family at a reduced price. Obnoxious Karl Lindner, a representative of the homeowners’ association and the only character who appears in both plays, makes a futile attempt to dissuade Russ and Bev. But the couple has other problems on their minds, and the visit of a smarmy clergyman only exacerbates their distress.

Act two reverses the racial dynamics. It is set in 2009, when Clybourne Park, now blighted and largely African-American, is undergoing gentrification. Steve and Lindsey, an affluent white couple who has bought the Clybourne Street house, face hostility from Lena and Kevin, a black couple who oppose the interlopers’ ambitious remodeling plans. Lena reveals that her great-aunt bought the property back in 1959, and she seethes at white disrespect for what she considers her neighborhood’s historic values.

Each act begins with similar jokes about geography, and the actors from act one reappear in act two in different roles, suggesting that the problems of 1959 persist in 2009 in different form. If, as Karl Marx asserted, history repeats itself, first as tragedy then as farce, so does theater. Norris has grafted a comedy of the absurd onto the social issues of Hansberry’s play and, though Clybourne Park won a Pulitzer and a Tony, the result is an awkward hybrid of the antic and the didactic.

“They’re all a bunch of idiots,” says Francine, Russ and Bev’s black domestic, about all the inane white folks shouting at one another. Matthew Byron Cassi has directed a spirited production of enjoyable idiocy, but the social themes seem stale and tendentious. The four African Americans, played by Andrew Hardaway and Megan van Dyke, are the only sane characters amid an ensemble of airheads, bigots and loons played with gusto by Catherine Babbitt, John Stillwaggon, Meredith Bell Alvarez and Ross Avant. Gary Hoeffler’s layered performance as Russ and, later, as Dan, a goofy contractor, anchors the production. At first mordantly passive aggressive then merely aggressive, his Russ suggests depths of anguish that the cartoon figures surrounding him cannot fathom. The mortal questions he confronts cannot be reduced to black and white or an easy walk in Clybourne Park.

Clybourne Park

$10-$25
8pm Fri-Sat, 3pm & 8pm Sun
The Playhouse, Cellar Theater
800 W Ashby
(210) 733-7258
ThePlayhouseSA.org 
Through April 6

Recently in Arts & Culture
  • 7 Public Art Projects Worth Searching For You’re likely familiar with the high-profile works of public art on view around downtown San Antonio: the gigantic, red swoop of... | 7/23/2014
  • ‘The Other Side’ Tackles the Impossible: Writing about trauma I didn’t take any notes while reading The Other Side because by the time I paused to pick up a pencil, I was already three-quarters of the way through. And for... | 7/23/2014
  • Free Will Astrology ARIES (March 21-April 19): A report in the prestigious British medical journal BMJ says that almost one percent of young pregnant women in the U.S. claim to be... | 7/23/2014
We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus