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In CCM’s “Clybourne Park”, Home is Where the Heart Is

Review by Kevin Reynolds of “Clybourne Park”: CCM Acting

On a cold, busy night in Clifton, a friendly and appreciative audience bypassed the sold-out UC men’s basketball game in favor of a production of Bruce Norris’ award-winning play, “Clybourne Park”, a CCM On Stage presentation directed by Richard Hess.

The set of “Clybourne Park”

Picking up where Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal “A Raisin in the Sun” lets off, the first half of Clybourne Park (referring to a neighborhood in Chicago) takes place in a single room in a home in 1959: a nice home, with nothing ostentatious other than the ability of the Stoller family to employ a housekeeper. The patriarch, Russ (played with great skill by Matt Fox), tries, badly, to maintain a façade that he is ready for a move to the suburbs and to a corner-office job. His wife, Bev, tries to break through that façade but it takes the confluence of several neighborhood visitors to bring the family’s secrets,s and Russ’s disdain for the people living around him, to the surface. The other actors do well embracing these characters despite sometimes not always capturing the older ages they are portraying.

Act Two opens with the same set, but the arrival of moving men triggers a turntable that takes the action and the audience 50 years into the future, to the same house that is now dilapidated, covered with graffiti, and wanting to be purchased by a young couple. The neighborhood declined after the Stollers left, but now, as in many cities around the country, including ours, the appeal of restoration, renovation, and city living is drawing suburbanites back, but with bigger plans (a la McMansions in 2009) for the property. In a unique casting twist, Hess defies convention and casts separate actors in each act, where normally one cast plays both. That’s all I’ll say about that so, as not to give certain twists away, but this second act cast felt more age appropriate to their characters and played the self-absorption and self-perceived importance of their roles perfectly. At times, you really do want to just slap each one of them out of their me-zone, except Kevin, the one who tries to keep the peace and lighten the mood…for the most part…portrayed exceptionally well by Trey Peterson.

Special credit must go to Mark Halpin and his crew for the set design and construction. It’s rare to hear applause as a set rotates, but it’s a magnificent transition from the 1959 house to the what’s left of it in 2009. Kudos also to CCM student Nina Agelvis for a lovely lighting design. It set the mood and gave Halpin’s set a bit of depth and a sense of place, but was not showy or distracting.

You will see, hear, and feel a lot of today’s world in both acts of Clybourne Park, which either says something about the foresight of the playwright, or the inability of humans to learn, grow, and improve. I suppose that’s up to us decide as the final lights go down.

I’ve added a photo of the first act set so you can get a sense of the space and the feeling that, even with the boxes stacked up for moving, it was a loving home. You’ll have to make your way to the Patricia Corbett Theatre to see the dramatic transformation to 2009, and I encourage you to do so. Clybourne Park runs Friday (7:30 p.m.), Saturday (2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.). Ticket info can be found here: https://ccmonstage.universitytickets.com/w/event.aspx?SeriesID=3