Playcrafters, Skippack, presents Clybourne Park

Left to right: Greg Kasander, Natalie Merlino, Ben Fried, Michelle Loor Nicolay and Michael Covel.
Left to right: Amelia Lang-Wallace, Jerry McGrier and Michael Covel.

Up next for Playcrafters of Skippack is a very provocative story of the clashing of race, real estate and resentment in suburban Chicago, 1959. Expect to laugh and cry while experiencing the award winning Clybourne Park, written by Bruce Norris. The story hones in on the cultural norms right where the story line in A Raisin in the Sun left off. The play was awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2012 Tony for Best Play.

Set in the fictitious outskirts of Chicago’s upscale Clybourne Park, the story takes place in the home of Russ and Bev (Ben Fried and Michele Loor Nicolay), who are in the throes of moving, attempting to sell their home after their son, a war vet, commits suicide. They soon get word from their neighbors, Karl and Betsy (Greg Kasander and Natalie Merlino) that a black couple is planning to purchase their house. A firestorm begins to smoulder as arguments ensue at the thought of the neighborhood changing and the possibility of property values dropping, amongst other things. In on the discussion is the local clergyman, Jim (Michael Covel), along with the maid (Amelia Lang-Wallace) and her husband Albert (played by Jerry McGrier).

Directed by David Deratzian, “it’s the story of how people relate to each other, but its more about the relationships as they existed in a different time.”

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Fast forward 50 years to Act 2, those same relationships are now assuming a different angle. It’s now 2009, and the characters take on new roles as a white couple wishes to embark on acquiring a house in an all-black neighborhood. As the couple wishes to raze the house and build a McMansion, they are now face-to-face with housing regulations at the hands of an all black neighborhood association. Housing codes devolve into racial issues and resentments flare.

“The house plays a significant role…it is a character in and of itself,” said Deratzian of the broken down residence in needy repair, tackily held together with out-dated, age-old renovations, such as lineoleum over hardwood and paneling and shag carpets falling apart.

The second half of the play compares the way people relate to one another today as opposed to the 50s and reveals the uninhibited natures and frankness of speech not so evident 50 years ago.

“In the past, people thought things but didn’t say them,” he said. “People were uncomfortable discussing things like disabilities and racial issues. Now in 2009, no one has any inhibitions.”

“The story is poignant, and I think that there’s something about each character that audience members can relate to,” said Natalie Merlino.”

Through the play’s dialogue, ingeniously written according to Deratzian, we see how present day society has devolved communication-wise. It’s waning in its respect for each other as the characters capture perfectly how people constantly talk over one another today and don’t really listen anymore. Meanwhile bitterness lingers, anger holds fast, and the contents of an old buried trunk are revealed.

“The race issue is just a device to expose the way people relate to each other, both then and now,” said Deratzian.

The show is about two hours with talk backs scheduled at the end of one or more of the Friday night shows.

“I think audiences will want a talk about this,” he said. “If people don’t leave talking about what they saw, then we did something wrong. It’s a very provocative play.”

Playcrafters presents Clybourne Park at the The Barn, Rt. 73 @ 2011 Store Rd. Skippack, PA 19474; (610) 584-4005. Showtimes are June 5-7, 13-14, 19-21, 8 p.m., June 15 – 3 p.m. For ticket information visit www.playcrafters.org.