Adult Language, Adult Themes, Racial Stereotypes and Political Incorrectness Brings Caldwell Into The 21st Century!
Theatre Chat recently chose Caldwell Theatre Company as one of the TOP TEN professional theaters in Florida not only because they hire credited and local actors but because they have a wonderful venue. Caldwell Theatre Company is the longest running regional theater in Florida. The 2010-2011 Mainstage Season celebrates their 36th Season. The theater has 333 seats with no obstructions and no seat is over 60 feet from the stage. The website states “You’ll feel as if you’re watching a performance from your living room.”
Clive Cholerton Artistic and Marketing Director deserves a great deal of praise and credit for choosing a risky, provocative season that has been the branding success for Miami’s GableStage. Being titillating, erotic and a bit controversial causes the community to not only talk about the show’s subject matters but also brings attention to the theater itself and awareness to the everyday struggle of ticket sales in a tight economy. Congratulations to Clive for picking Clybourne Park That (The Washington Post) reviewed it as a “buzz-saw sharp new comedy.” Clybourne Park cleverly spins the events of A Raisin in the Sun to tell an unforgettable new story about race and real estate in America. Clybourne Park is the recent winner of the London Evening Standard Theatre Award as best play of 2010.
The show opens in the Younger’s home of what seems to be an Ozzie & Harriet ideal life in 1959. The living room of Russ and Bev (Kenneth Kay and Patti Gardner) packing up their home in their all-white neighborhood now moving to escape what the audience will find out later as a bias community. Funny moments occur when the wife asks husband Russ “Did you change the address for our National Geographic subscription?” We witness Bev directing her hired help/maid Francine (Karen Stephens), packing up household items.
While Bev overseas the project of moving, you feel tension from husband Russ but will learn later it is due to the community ostracizing their mentally effected military son which led to his death. White neighbor Karl (Greg Weiner) and his expecting deaf wife Betsy (Margery Lowe) want to stop Bev and Russ from moving. The neighbors want to block the sale of their home in fear it will affect the future sale and outcome of the neighborhood. Russ and Bev had no idea their realtor was selling the home to a black family which uproars this middle-class Chicago neighborhood.
The hired help’s husband Albert (Brian D. Coats) arrives to pick up wife Francine (Karen Stephens). As we hear arguments about race the black couple try to leave but are caught up in the uncomfortable conversation which is what Author Bruce Norris brilliantly wants you to hear and hopes will bring up discussion after the show.
The same talented actors play totally different characters meeting 50 years later in 2009 as home association neighbors meet with the new owners in the same livingroom/home now decaying. They are concerned about the future of the now historic black neighborhood with the debate strikingly familiar to the first act. Diverting from the real subject they focus on violation of housing restrictions brought up by neighbors Kevin (Brian D. Coats) and Lena (Karen Stephens) a black upscale housewife, the great-niece of the original Younger family in first act.
All debating on the rebuilding concerns, value of neighborhood and properties with statements that show rasism toward gay realtor Tom (Ciff Burgess), a well-traveled conservative lawyer, Kathy (Patti Gardner), and the new home owners, Steve (Greg Weiner) blurt out racial overtones and jokes while his expecting wife Lindsey (Margery Lowe) is embarrased but she is found guilty of laughing at the rasist comments as well. A meeting of small talk, disrespectful moments with cell phones and arguments of building the home into a larger home, unpleasant information is given to the couple about the past of the home occupants.. revealing how we can or can’t distance ourselves from the stories that linger in our present households.
As stated on Caldwell website “The same house represents very different demographics in each act, as we climb through the looking glass of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic A Raisin in the Sun. These hilarious and horrifying neighbors pitch a battle over territory and legacy that reveals how far our ideas about race and gentrification have evolved or have they?”
Kenneth Kay is convincing as the angry, grieving father Russ dealing with his still in denial wife, Bev (Patti Gardner) played wonderfully like the Leave it to Beaver June Cleaver wife and even better as her character Kathy in second act. (Karen Stephens) as Francine the housekeeper has a heartfelt performance and even more powerful performance as Lena, (Brian D. Coats) as Francine’s husband Albert is vulnerable and plays Kevin in second act with grace, Ciff Burgess relishes Jim the bias minister and Tom the gay realtor, (Margery Lowe) brings us moments of much wanted laughter to her hearing impaired Betsy and the expected mother, Lindsey in second act. Gregg Weiner is brilliant as racist Karl and Steve, (Andrew Wind) protrays Kenneth the deceased son. Set designer, Tim Bennett, has done a wonderful job in coloring the sets from the Fifty’s new home to the 2009 fixer upper. Costumer Alberto Arroyo sets the mood for the appropriate characters and time periods; lighting designer Thomas M. Shorrock focuses on the script so you never realize he has added a subtle mix of lighting for the moment.
The play works and the actors all do the job of making us discuss and bring awareness that bigots are people obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own prejudices opinions and persons hostile to those of differing race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, various mental disorders or religion. Do we really take the time, or have the desire, to understand the other side of the conversation? As stated in the play “maybe we should eat what they eat!” As you finish reading this you end up hearing the theme song from All in the Family and hear Archie Bunker and Edith singing “Those were the days.”
by Richard Cameron of THEATRE CHAT
For show information contact:
Caldwell Theatre Company 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, FL 33487
Box Office: (561) 241-7432 or (877) 245-7432