The Coastal Stage Production Company, had taken their stunning Show “Clybourne Park,” on the road, to several venues up and down coastal South Carolina. The powerful performance was headed to Main Street Theatre on Hilton Head in early September. No need to remind you that same time frame was concentric with the one set against the arrival of Hurricane Irma.
Happily for island residents, the adage about the show going on was put fully in place by founding partners Luke Cleveland and Rodney Vaugn. The play was rescheduled. It totally exceeds expectations as the gifted and determined cast and support members offered a “remain in your memory for a very long time” version of “Clybourne Park” on Saturday night.
Irma, notwithstanding, director, Cleveland, and his cast offered the most phenomenal presentation of the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize garnering play, which was authored Bruce Norris. “Clybourne Park” though mostly fictional, has some historical significance. The actual home, and the neighborhood in which the play is set, are the real deal in Chicago. Norris bounces his story line off of the very important, very successful Lorraine Hansberry, piece “Raisin in the Sun.”
The polished cast appear in two time frames—1959 and 2009. The script, in two acts, challenges us with different circumstances and a whole new set of characters with only the slightest connection to the earlier characters, whom we met 50 years before.
Together and collectively, Acts One and Two deal with the most distasteful of themes. Racism, intolerance, bias, bigotry, xenophobia, greed and a load of others provided a kind of horrific leit motif as the actors came together to ensure our appreciation of the storyline. Many of the most scathing issues were based on the telling or retelling of an off color joke or the actual suggesting of a ridiculous stereotype. In many of these cases, laughter can be the only response.
“Clybourne Park” gazes clear-eyed into the faces of the characters dealing with the impact of Norris’s script which challenges each in his or her own way. The plot begins to spin immediately when the first act, set in the 1959 living room of the Clybourne Park home of Russ (Dan Herrin), and his wife, Beverly (Christie Grefe). They are dealing with the loss, a suicide of their soldier son. Their home is in a white community, and they have sold it, indirectly, to a black couple.
Intent on changing the direction of that sale are the incredibly distracting Karl ( Mark Erickson), and his wife, Betsy (Toye Hickman) who is pregnant and deaf.
Fully involved as a housekeeper to Russ and Beverly is Francine ( Laphanie Banks), who offers her character, appropriately subservient, along with her well meaning, husband, Albert, (Michael Burgess.) Jim (Jayme Brinson) is a concerned, if inept pastor, who tries to “minister” to everyone, and fails miserably at every attempt.
At the conclusion of Act One, we feel that there will be some comforting resolution, as we anticipate a new time and place, in Act Two.
Act Two, is set in 2009 in the same living room and involves the same actors, performing as different characters, and facing a different set of circumstances. The conflict this time deals with a white yuppie couple, Steve (Erickson) and Lindsey (Hickman) as they face members of a community council, reviewing legal issues involved in the purchase of the house, now situated in the solidly black neighborhood, and most especially with their plans to raze it and rebuild an architectural showpiece. Here we find Lena (Banks) and Kevin (Burgess) this time as yuppies themselves, dealing with the consideration of the impact of a white couple moving in to their all-African American neighborhood, and a side issue of gentrification. Looking on as an attorney, Kathy (Grefe,) and concerned community member Tom (Brinson) who is gay, consider necessary outcomes.
We are presented with the details leading up to Russ and Beverly’s son, Kenneth’s (Henry Dreier) suicide, through the accidental discovery of the suicide note, all referenced in Act One. The heart wrenching interaction between Kenneth, dressed in his army uniform in the middle of the night, and his mother engaged in a nothing conversation, as she says “I really believe things are about to change for the better,” as he intently writes his suicide note.
At the end of Act Two, I found that the more things seem to change, the more they seem to remain the same.
Artist, musician, teacher and writer Nancy K. Wellard focuses on portraying and promoting the cultural arts, first in Los Angeles and, for close to 30 years, in the Lowcountry. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coastal Stage Productions Upcoming Performances
▪ “The Dixie Swim Club,” The Shed Event Venue, Port Royal, SC
8 p.m. Oct. 20 – 21
▪ “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” The Shed Event Venue
8 p.m. Nov. 3-; 2 p.m. Nov. 5
8 p.m. Nov. 10-11; 2 p.m. Nov 12
The 2018 Season
▪ “Southern Hospitality,” Feb. 9-11 and Feb.16-18
▪ “Della’s Diner – Musical, May 25 – 27; June 1-3
▪ “Sex Please – We’re Sixty,” Aug.24 – 26; and Septe. 1-2
▪ Producer’s Choice —TBA; Nov. 30; Dec. 1-2; Dec. 7-9
For information, call 843-717-2175