Friday, 23 September 2011

Clybourne Park, MTC. Sep 23, 2011 *****

Clybourne Park 
By Bruce Norris
Produced by Melbourne Theatre Company
Reviewed by Kate Herbert  on Sept 23, 2011
September 23, 2011 1:23PM 
Stars: ***** 
Published in Herald Sun on Sept 26, 2011  and online on Sept 23, 2011

    Image by Jeff Busby. Cast: Patrick Brammal, Laura Gordon, Bert LaBonte', Zahra Newman, Greg Stone, Alison Whyte

    WE ARE confronted daily with issues of discrimination around the globe, but Bruce Norris's insightful, acerbic, award-winning play, Clybourne Park, reminds us that bigotry and conflict are never far from our own door.

    This impressive production is close to flawless, boasting Norris's consummate skill with dialogue and plot, Peter Evan's taut, dexterous and unobtrusive direction, and a formidable, distinguished cast playing multiple roles.

    Norris bases his narrative on Lorraine Hansberry's US classic play about racism, A Raisin in the Sun, but he investigates bigotry further in all its ugly manifestations.

    In Chicago in 1959, a privileged, white community fractures when a white family sells its house to a black family.

    Fifty years later, in 2009, when a white couple wants to rebuild on the same site, similar issues arise, albeit couched in smarter, politically correct lingo.

    Norris's astute, illuminating, socio-political observations reveal an America that, at its core, is unchanged. In both periods, the characters carefully concealed views are revealed when a stray comment ignites vehement conflict.

    Alison Whyte is touching as the brittle, anxious and mercurial Bev, a 1950s mother whose delicate psyche is shattered after her soldier son's suicide.

    As her stolid, conservative husband, Russ, Greg Stone superbly embodies repressed grief disguised as belligerence and barely controlled rage.

    Patrick Brammall is outstanding as the patronising, manipulative bigot, Karl, and Laura Gordon is suitably sweet and coy as his hearing-impaired wife.

    Bert LaBonte sensitively plays the oppressed Albert and provocatively portrays his opposite, the upwardly mobile, 2009, black professional. As his wife in both periods, Zahra Newman is feisty and entertaining.

    Luke Ryan captures the insincerity of the preacher and also provides the final, poignant moment.

    Clybourne Park is a rare jewel in contemporary, naturalistic theatre with its black humour, pithy social criticism and genuinely sensitive and heart-wrenching observations of human grief and loss.

    CLYBOURNE PARK By Bruce Norris, Melbourne Theatre Company. MTC Sumner Theatre, until Oct 22, 2011

    Star rating: *****

    1 comment:

    1. This is a great review, Kate, on a beautifully acted, directed, and thought-provoking piece of theatre.