By Diane Johnson
Clybourne Park, now playing at the Red Barn Theatre uses humor to make fun of stereotypes. The production shines a light on current and past prejudices, which are mocked before our very eyes. A returning soldier commits suicide in large part due to a community that lacked understanding and compassion. This event sets the stage and was the trigger for the events that unfolded.
Clybourne Park is a story about how patterns of prejudice repeat over time although the context changes. Whether you examine the gentrification of the inner cities in recent times or the white flight of the fifties, the fact is that people are afraid of change. Fifty years later, there is a fear in the white establishment that it will be perceived as bigoted, leading to an over compensation of “we understand”, when in fact those who have never been the target of racism haven’t got a clue.
Clybourne Park won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play and the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Playwright Bruce Norris is an accomplished writer and actor whose works have been showcased all over the United States and in London. Carol MacCartee directs this intelligent comedy drama with sensitivity and finesse. This Red Barn Theatre production is an intelligent view of the massive changes to inner city life in the U.S. over a 50-year span.
Nicole Nuremberg shifts roles from the naïve-married lady to an intelligent no nonsense woman who is not afraid to speak her mind. Letisha Williams makes her debut at the Red Barn in this production. Her roles reflects the significant changes African American women have endured, from appearing subservient to demanding to be heard. She had wonderful comedic timing. Matthew Hollis Hulsey plays three very different roles from the patient preacher to the son who fought in Korea and finally the gay agent selling the house. Chris Tittel represents those individuals who have never progressed beyond the narrow minded thinking of the fifties, as both his roles showcase a mind numbing stubbornness to ideology rather than reality. Amber McDonald Good shows the breadth of her talent as both the pregnant deaf woman and the professional businesswoman, delivering both parts with a lively energy. Dave Bootle, of LaTeDa fame is the despondent husband mourning the loss of his son. As the construction worker in the second Act, Dave’s acting made the audience erupt in giant belly laughs. Mook J plays the dutiful husband in both time periods and is happy to be back at the Red Barn.
One can only hope that today’s divisive political discourse will evolve, and we will finally learn from the past and listen to each other. Otherwise, the patterns will continue to repeat and we will never be part of that One Human Family we believe in as members of the Key West community.