CLYBOURNE PARK Runs Now thru 2/16 at Cincinnati Playhouse

CLYBOURNE PARK Runs Now thru 2/16 at Cincinnati Playhouse

The Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Broadway's Tony Award for Best Play. London's Olivier Award for Best New Play. There's only one show in history that can claim all three honors. The Playhouse is proud to kick off the second half of its Marx Theatre season with Bruce Norris' CLYBOURNE PARK, running today, Jan. 18 through Feb. 16.

With successful runs in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, London and Washington, D.C., among many others, CLYBOURNE PARK has become one of the most produced plays of the past two theatre seasons. It's easy to understand why. For its biting satire of race and real estate, CLYBOURNE PARK earned accolades from critics as varied as The New Yorker (which described the show as "superb, elegantly written and hilarious") and Entertainment Weekly (which hailed the play as "indisputably, uproariously funny").

CLYBOURNE PARK'S two acts are set 50 years apart. The first takes place in 1959. Russ and Bev have recently sold their modest bungalow in the quaint Chicago neighborhood that provides the play's title. But as they prepare for a move they hope will offer them a fresh start after a recent family heartbreak, they receive an unexpected visit from Karl Lindner, a representative of the local community association. Unknown to Bev and Russ, their home has been purchased by a black family, a first for the street and a point of concern for neighbors such as Lindner, who are worried about what such changes could mean for their own property values.

Fast forward to 2009. Steve and Lindsey, white suburbanites eager to start their new life as city dwellers, are deep in negotiations over proposed renovations to the same home owned 50 years earlier by Bev and Russ. They intend to raze the house in favor of new construction. That plan is met with frustration by their black neighbors Kevin and Lena, who worry about its effect on the historic character of the street and its existing homes.

Despite the separation of a half-century, the conversation in both acts takes a turn from the polite and politically correct, respectively, to the no-holds-barred, and no one is held blameless for the escalation. While the stakes have changed, the debate remains strikingly familiar as playwright Norris investigates the way we talk - or don't - about race, class, gender and more.

CLYBOURNE PARK officially began life in 2010 at New York's Playwrights Horizons, but its journey actually started years earlier. In 1959, first-time playwright Lorraine Hansberry made her Broadway debut with the seminal work A Raisin in the Sun. That play tells the story of the Younger family, whose matriarch uses her husband's life insurance money to escape the projects of Chicago's South Side. The Youngers are never mentioned by name in CLYBOURNE PARK but the one character who actually appears in both plays is: Karl Lindner, who visits the Youngers late in Raisin to try to convince them not to move to his neighborhood. Though each play stands entirely on its own, avid theatregoers who have seen A Raisin in the Sun on stage or film will enjoy the parallel stories when viewing CLYBOURNE PARK.

Associate Artist Timothy Douglas, who made his Playhouse debut with last season's
The Trip to Bountiful, will direct CLYBOURNE PARK. Douglas believes the issues raised in the play cover a lot more than race. "It's only a play about race because it has black and white people on the stage at the same time," he told the Salt Lake Tribune. "I prefer to think of it as a play about rhetoric and cultural sensitivities in which individuals in the audience get the chance to weigh in on themselves. Pardon the pun, but not all issues in the play are black and white."

CLYBOURNE PARK'S cast features Deonna Bouye as Francine/Lena, Samuel Ray Gates as Albert/Kevin, Wilbur Edwin Henry as Russ/Dan, Deirdre Madigan as Bev/Kathy, Caley Milliken as Betsy/Lindsey, Michael Place as Jim/Tom, Sam Rueff as Kenneth and Rex Young as Karl/Steve. The creative team includes set designer Tony Cisek, costume designer Tracy Dorman, lighting designer Mary Louise Geiger and sound designer Matthew M. Nielson.

Becky Merold is the stage manager. Jenifer Morrow and Andrea L. Shell are the Second Stage managers. The production is sponsored by Moe and Jack Rouse & Sallie and Randolph Wadsworth.

Prices for CLYBOURNE PARK range from $30 to $75, depending on seat location. Prices are subject to change, and patrons are encouraged to buy early for the best seats at the best prices. Teen and student tickets are $25 each. Previews are at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18; 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21; and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22. The official opening night is Thursday, Jan. 23, at 8 p.m. Performances take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays.

CLYBOURNE PARK has inspired discussions about race and community in cities where the play has been performed. The Playhouse is hosting several special opportunities to join the conversation, including Playhouse Perspectives Post-Show Talk Backs after all performances (except for opening night and Meet the Artist nights). Funding for the talk backs is generously provided by Roderick and Barbara Barr.

Additionally, free post-show Meet the Artists programs that allow audiences to interact with cast members and others associated with the production will be offered at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29; 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9; and 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13.

The Playhouse will also join with Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) and the University of Cincinnati's Kunz Center for Social Research for a community-wide forum and discussion about CLYBOURNE PARK. The forum, featuring panelists Kathryne Gardette, president of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation; Jeffrey Timberlake, urban sociologist at the University of Cincinnati; and CLYBOURNE PARK director Timothy Douglas will be held at the United Way, 2400 Reading Road. The forum is free, but advance registration is required (call 513-977-2623 or email myra.calder@homecincy.org).

CLYBOURNE PARK will be audio described for those with visual impairments at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, and signed for persons with hearing impairments at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9. The Playhouse is fully accessible. Audio enhancement receivers, large print programs and complete wheelchair access are available.

Tickets to CLYBOURNE PARK are on sale now. For more information, call The Playhouse Box Office at 513-421-3888 (toll-free in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana at 800-582-3208) or visit www.cincyplay.com. Call 513-345-2248 for Telecommunications Device for the Deaf accessibility.

The 2013-14 Robert S. Marx Theatre season is sponsored by The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation, and Macy's is the Robert S. Marx Theatre season design sponsor. The season sponsor of new work is The Lois and Richard Rosenthal Foundation.

The Playhouse is supported, in part, by the generosity of the tens of thousands of individuals and businesses that give to ArtsWave.

The Ohio Arts Council helps fund The Playhouse with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.

The Playhouse also receives funding from the Shubert Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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