When the home changes, can the neighbours do the same? Do the neighbours become part of the home? Or does a house choose us?
Clybourne Park is an unforgettable show that beautifully balances a moving story on loss and history with a razor sharp satire. The play tackles testy neighbours, changing neighbourhoods, and racism. That may seem like a large messy plate. However, the action takes place in one house during two different time periods presenting a microcosm on the fear of change. Everything comes together in a full circle as the house encloses its ghosts and dreams.
In a middle-class neighbourhood in Chicago, 1959, a white couple are moving out of their house following the tragic and controversial death of their son. When the neighbours learn that an African-American family is moving into that house, they come forward expressing concern and anxiety. However, the couple is adamant about leaving. The anger and grief permeates the house and into the lives of the neighbours. Change is inevitable as time marches on.
The play makes a time-jump to 2009 and African-Americans live in the neighbourhood. This time a white family is buying the house, planning to tear it down and rebuild. But neighbourhood groups want to preserve the style and the historical value of the house. What follows is knee-slapping funny as the two sides descend into condescension disguised as political correctness.
The cast is fantastic. Each actor performs dual roles with the right pitch for the respective time periods. They bring to life characters that are so familiar with their flaws, good intentions, and humanity. They lace the anger, both righteous and indignant, with the tension of fear and ignorance. The comic timing is perfect. Bravo to everyone!
The set is a character in itself. It is shown only in a state of transition. The age, neglect, and sadness are dripping down the walls. The house has a history that is both heart-breaking and ground-breaking. It is straining in the effort to be all things to everyone.
The home is not always a place of comfort and safety. It carries the stories of the past and the expectations of the present. Some houses and some families are not always strong enough to bear this energy. But change can bring new beginnings and new stories. Just make the sure the door is open.
Photo credit: Andrée Lanthier
Clybourne Park: Presented by Centaur Theatre Company. Directed by Ellen David. Written by Bruce Norris. Show continues to April 30, 2017 at the Centaur Theatre, 453 St-François-Xavier, Old Montreal. Tickets $51.00 to $28.00. Call the box office at 514-288-3161 or go to www.centaurtheatre.com