Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park, a comedy about race and class and acclaimed in London, opens at ACT January 20 and runs through February 13. The story opens in 1959 (the year I was born) and jumps to 2009, starring Omoze Idehenre and Rene Augesen among other ACT core actors. Omoze seems to have brought her director from last summer at Cal Shakes in Orinda, as Jonathan Moscone directs. Omoze has played women who stand up to male piggery and political oppression while Rene from what I saw last year is a great sport who plays tarty or trashy women for laughs.
The slideshow left runs through the story.
The dramaturg Beatrice Basso made an interesting observation backstage, saying
Another conversation that emerged in the rehearsal room involves the artists. While spending hours trying to forge conversations for the stage, black and white actors who have known each other for years suddenly had to pay attention to these very issues of race, which are so much easier left ignored. During a rehearsal, one of the white actors told the two actors of color that he finds himself still unsure about how to address them. As it turned out, one of them preferred the term African American, and the other black. There was honesty in that exchange, but also a little undeniable awkwardness. Even in a room filled with laughter, trusting relationships, and comfort, these topics are not easily navigated.
The final act of the Clybourne Park conversation involves the audiences who come to see this remarkable play. Because of the volatility of the topics the play explores, and because Norris and his characters don’t send us home with easy answers, we’ve decided to add additional opportunities for postshow audience discussions. Possibly the most intense conversations, however, will be the informal ones that happen in our cars, kitchens, living rooms, and neighborhoods, as well as in our own heads, as we try to make sense of issues that are far from resolved in 2011. We might walk out of the theater with questions about overt opinions versus inner feelings, about our natures and most honest thoughts and fears. Maybe we’ll think about what goes unsaid—and about the habits and attitudes that we don’t like to question, or even to share. Thankfully, Bruce Norris makes us laugh (and cringe) equally hard as we encounter these very fraught conversations.
Tickets to Clybourne Park range from $7.50 for a 10UP seat to $69 for premium orchestra. Previews start this evening, Friday, January 21, 2011.
American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94108).
Tickets and subscriptions to A.C.T.’s 2010–11 season are available through the A.C.T. Box Office at
415.749.2250 or by visiting www.act-sf.org.
Speaking of London’s takes on class distinctions, the Royal Opera House premieres the Anna Nicole opera soon.
On this side of the pond, comedic provacateur Mike Polk Jr. reads his “Letters to My Student Loan Officer”, about how students of modest means get trapped by predatory lenders like those in the mortgage crisis.