Clybourne Park – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

A lot can happen to a neighborhood and the houses in it over five decades. Through the passage of time, changes can improve or decimate a community, making it unrecognizable to its former inhabitants.

Such is the case with the Chicago neighborhood at the center of Bruce Norris’ Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning play “Clybourne Park” now gracing the stage of Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk until Sunday, November 19.

In 1959, Clybourne Park is a desirable white enclave that is visibly frightened by the prospect of a black family moving in to its sacred territory. While Bev (Susan Haefner) and Russ (Frank Mastrone) are eagerly awaiting their move to a new home, their neighbors are alarmed. Do they know who is purchasing #406? Bev and Russ are moving to escape their home’s bad memories, for it is here their son Kenneth, a Korean War veteran, committed suicide.

Now close to moving day, and Russ’ new job, their home has a revolving door policy. Jim (Matt Mancuso) drops in to offer some spiritual advice, Karl (Nick Roesler) and his deaf, very pregnant wife Betsy (Allie Seibold) arrive to question the suitability of the prospective new owners and the effect on the neighborhood, while Albert (SJ Hannah) stops by to pick up his wife Francine (Rae Jane) who has worked for years for the family. Albert and Francine are quickly called upon to offer their perspective as the only African-Americans present.

The turmoil and questions of 1959 are turned on their head fifty years later in 2009 when a white family dares to foray into what has become a clearly black neighborhood. Lindsey (Allie Seibold) and Steve (Nick Roesler) have grand architectural plans for #406 and they are meeting at their perspective new home to address a housing permit with friends and associates. With sharp witticisms, off-color jokes and biting commentary, the thin veneer of civility is stripped from the racial questions not far from the surface. When Lena (Rae Janeil) introduces the subject of a suicide here fifty years before and a construction worker (Frank Mastrone) uncovers a footlocker buried in the backyard, all the suspicions and mistrust quickly surface. Pamela Hill directs this talented cast in this thought provoking exploration of racial prejudices with a truly skilled perspective.

For tickets ($45-60), call Music Theatre of CT, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk at 203-454-3883 or online at Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Pick up the story where “A Raisin in the Sun” leaves off, as the Younger family prepares to move to their first real home, and bear witness to the racial and cultural clashes that can ensue over a prized piece of real estate.