BWW Reviews: CLYBOURNE PARK at Center for the Arts Is Astounding
Clybourne Park, by Bruce Norris, opened last night at the Center for the Arts Theatre. Stop what you are doing immediately and reserve tickets. This Pulitzer, Tony and Olivier Award winning script in combination with some of Wichita's finest actors creates an evening of theatre not soon forgotten.
Norris wrote Clybourne Park as a response to Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. The first act, set in 1959, is something of a prequel. Act two, set in 2009 in the same house, deals with the aftermath- the neighborhood, the priorities, the attitudes have changed... or have they? This modern masterpiece has every ingredient of a successful theatrical recipe- controversy, drama, passion, family, love, comedy and pride. The issues of race, class and ownership are all broached aggressively to make the audience uncomfortable in a way that only live theatre can achieve. By the end of the evening, the audience can feel overwhelmed with pride or embarrassment for what society has become, and subsequently, what you have become. It truly is an examination of the human condition. If humanity isn't worth examining, what is?
The same cast of performers plays the characters in both acts- a challenge for even the most seasoned of actors. An ensemble piece, Clybourne Park has a unusually strong company to bring the text to life. Josh Dunston is a natural who was made for the stage. Mark Anderson will rip out your heart without saying a word. The last final moments of the production are overwhelming. Danzel Muzingo Bond and Vonda Schuster have a chemistry that is magnetic and energizing. Their timing together is impeccable. Somebody please cast them together again. Darian A. Leatherman is endearing, easily winning over the audience. Kenneth J. Mitchell plays the character you love to hate with passion and conviction. He knows how to command a stage. Andrew Fayette's brief final last scene is worth the price of admission. Director Dan Schuster brought a compelling, socially important, thought provoking script to life. Congratulations to John Boldenow for making wise decisions, choosing cutting edge material, entrusting it to the right hands, and nurturing a place to ask the difficult questions that so many other theatres are afraid of. I smell a Mary Jane Teall award or two.
Wichita theatre lovers, my question to you is this: Why wasn't this house packed? (Especially for opening night where a cheese and wine reception is included in the ticket price.) For a remarkable gem of a theatre that consistently does solid work, why wasn't this run sold out? Clybourne Park has a mere five performance run. I urge you, I implore you, I beg you to do yourself a favor and reserve your seats. Then go back the next night. Tell your friends. Tell your enemies. Don't be the guy that regrets seeing Clybourne Park when he had the chance.
Wichita Center for the Arts is located at 9112 E Central. Get tickets by calling (316) 315-0151. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for Seniors and Center members and $15 for students. For more information visit http://wcfta.com/Theatre.html.
Photo Credit: Richard Davies