“The history of America is the history of private property!” a character says in the second half of Clybourne Park. And there, in a nutshell, is pretty much the point of Bruce Norris’ 2010 play – that the changing face of America can be traced in the changing faces of its suburban neighbourhoods.
The play is a bona fide modern classic, a needle-sharp satire that pokes fun at anyone and everyone – but mainly at rich, white people. Inspired by Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, the play’s two time-hopping halves are set in a family house in the fictional Chicago suburb that she invented.
The first half takes place in 1959, before the events of Hansberry’s play, and watches a community squabble about a black family moving into a predominantly white neighbourhood. The second is set in 2009, and sees a community squabble over a rich, white family moving into what has become a predominantly black neighbourhood.
Michael Emans’ polished production for touring company Rapture Theatre features a strong set of performances from its multi-roling cast. Jack Lord is particularly good, first as a prissy and prejudiced rotary rep, then as an entertainingly entitled house-buyer.
The production doesn’t quite deliver all the goods – the play has the potential to be far funnier than it is here – but it doesn’t disappoint either. In truth, it would be hard to with writing this good. Playful, provocative, and powerfully political, Clybourne Park is undoubtedly one of the plays of the century so far.