Inspired by Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal A Raisin in the Sun, Clybourne Park’s two acts take place in one house in two different decades, the 1950’s and the 1990’s. Community leaders are shocked when a grieving middle-aged couple sells their home to a black family in the Patti Page era of song. Years later, new officials are taken aback when a prominent white couple plans to make extreme structural renovations to the house, which is now is part of a large black community.
While theories of across the board racism raise their gnarled hands here, most importantly Norris deals with the inability to accurately communicate, the fear of being misrepresented and the profound struggle it takes to be human. Such circumstances bring out rare humor and sharp societal observations. The eternal horrors of war and the ultimate downfall of the self serious self, also, are presented here with painful precision and pin sharp hilarity, depending upon the circumstances.
Director Amy Morton, aided by Todd Rosenthal’s appropriate scenic design and Pat Collin’s transformative lighting, brings forth an honest, thought provoking evening of theater. The superb cast excels on all levels. Kirsten Fitzgerald’s heartbroken mother, flowing on a river of denial, and John Judd, as her exasperated, angered mate provide the evening’s most poignant emotional shocks. Stephanie Childers, meanwhile, compels with subtle, honest charm as, both, a deaf housewife and a self involved modern career woman.
Clybourne Park runs through November 6 at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted. Tickets are $20-$75 and can be purchased by visiting steppenwolf.org or by calling 312-335-1650. —Brian Kirst