Clybourne Park Visited Cleveland
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The Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House (CPH) MFA Acting Program’s class of 2018 performed “Clybourne Park” last month in Playhouse Square’s Helen Theatre, a small black box that showcased a pretty standard set of a furnished house complete with a few doors and a staircase.
A response to Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Clybourne Park,” written by Bruce Norris in 2010, won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award. The play’s two acts are separated by 50 years, but by listening to the witty dialogue and seeing the characters’ reactions to one another, it is clear that the relationship between the characters can barely be separated between “then and now”.
“Clybourne Park” touches so many controversial issues relevant today as much as they were 50 years ago.
First-year student Lauren Walters said that there were “cool parallels,” and unfortunately one of those was how the black characters in the show were “treated badly,” regardless of how politically correct the other characters were trying to be.
Political correctness was a huge topic in the show, especially when there was almost a sort of joke war. How could a “joke about a tampon” be offensive? Well, when it has to do with how tampons are like “white girls,” it happens pretty easily.
There was so much humor, some of which created an uncomfortable audience questioning whether or not members should laugh.
Second-year student Christine Pisaniello said, “‘Clybourne Park’ brilliantly and openly discusses racial and socioeconomic divisions with the nuances that politics have lacked as of late. The show encapsulates America’s struggle with racial understanding, although told by a white man.”
A lot of the dialogue that could have slowed down the show was smartly sped up, so characters would be almost yelling over each other sometimes, which helped create a real-life feel that is sometimes lost in theatrical performances.
Home to 10 main theaters, Playhouse Square is the ideal destination for anyone looking for a professional performance. But even though onstage roles were reserved for the MFA students, undergraduate CWRU students are able to take part in productions of this caliber behind the scenes.
Don Carrier, the director of “Clybourne Park” and associate director of the MFA program, wanted some production assistants from Eldred’s theater department. The run crew for the production consisted of fourth-year student Jonah Roth, third-year student Merit Glover and second-year student Michelle Berg.
“We swept and mopped the stage, set up all the furniture and props before the show, prepared the food or beverages that showed up onstage, changed the set during intermission, helped with quick changes and once the show was over, we cleaned the set up so that we were ready to do the same thing all over again for the next show,” Berg said.
“The MFAs did a masterful job with the text, entrancing the audience even when the action is light. Even a conversation about capital cities or building codes is weighted down with the subtext in this show, and it’s ultimately heartbreaking,” Pisaniello said.
Berg said, “Most of the crew members were either apprentices at CPH or industry professionals, so we were able the learn a lot from them.”