- Segregation is still a reality. Whether it’s tribalism or
xenophobia that fuels people’s tendency to stick with others
who are most like themselves, some strong factors are at work
not just race that separates people. It can be religion,
sexual orientation, politics, educational or economic strata.
This point is strongly conveyed in “Clybourne Park,” a
play that was inspired by a similar work that took the stage
in 1959 - “A Raisin in the Sun,” which The Milwaukee Rep
will be offering later this season.
Park” is set in the same Chicago neighborhood as its
counterpart. It involves a family that is moving out after
suffering the loss of their adult son by suicide. They are
selling their house to a black family. The all-white
stronghold is in a tizzy about it. In the first act, we see
the fears and outrage of their neighbors, including the local
pastor, surface to the point of violence.
Act II, we revisit the same neighborhood 50 years later, but
now the situation is reversed - a white family is moving into
a black enclave and the obstacles it encounters. Has a
half-century served to enlighten anyone? Definitely not,
according to this playwright. It seems that the stereotypes
each race believes about the other are still being tenaciously
adhered to. Granted, there is some exaggeration used, but if
one is honest, there is certainly a big hunk of truth in this
actor plays two roles, one in each act. This in itself is
interesting to watch how effective each actor is in
transforming him or herself.
Lee Ernst as Russ, the angry husband in the first act,
and Dan, the rough-and-ready hardhat in the second act, are
both very believable characters in the hands of the talented
McKnight as Bev, the harried housewife and mother, and Kathy,
the “enlightened” lawyer-world traveler, is also
impressive. The other gifted actors who play two parts
effectively include Marti Gobel, James T. Alfred (a welcome
addition), Grant Goodman and Rep stalwart Gerald Neugent, who
the Fair Housing Act of 1968 really made a difference or do
people exert pressure in other ways by bullying or
neighborhood zoning laws or making those who are seen as
different or inferior feel utterly excluded and unworthy, even
threatened? Legislating may be the impetus for change, but
changes in attitude cannot be legislated. It is obviously a
maddeningly slow process.
prize-winning piece of work will make us laugh and squirm. It
is crude and poignant and, in some respects, outrageous. It
will give us pause as we re-examine the issue of racism,
especially in terms of real estate.
you’re not afraid of a hard-hitting, honest look at
ourselves and the ridiculous stances we take sometimes,
you’ll enjoy this production. But if you prefer denial and
avoidance of controversy, you’d better skip this one. I
can’t imagine that it won’t raise a few protests or at
least a few eyebrows.
you do attend, stay in the theater during the intermission.
The changing of the scenery almost constitutes another play
within the play. I don’t know who is responsible for this
clever addition - the playwright, the director or the scenic
designer - but a thumbs up for whoever is.
by Mark Clements, “Clybourne Park” runs through Feb. 24 in
the Quadracci Powerhouse Theatre, 108 E. Wells St., Milwaukee.
For show times and tickets, call 414-224-9490 or visit