Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Clybourne Park
A Wild and Wickedly Funny Ride
6th Street Playhouse

Also see Richard's review of Tree, Jeanie's review of Eurydice and Patrick's review of X's and O's (A Football Love Story)

The show has closed, but I just have to tell you about one of the funniest plays I've seen in a long time, given a stellar production in Santa Rosa. Clybourne Park is Bruce Norris' idea of a sequel to Lorraine Hansberry's most famous play, A Raisin in the Sun.

Norris smartly imagines the family about to move out of the house that African-American Lena Younger and her family are moving into, in a decidedly white, suburban neighborhood just on the outskirts of Chicago. Norris gives Bev (Jill Zimmerman) and her husband Russ (Mike Pavone) a fully developed backstory that unfolds in bits and pieces, providing the motivation for their move, but oh so much more has to be revealed before we fully understand. Their longtime black maid, Francine (Serena Elize Flores) is appropriately subservient, even though she seems to know more than she lets on; her husband Albert (Dorian Lockett) knows how to play the quiet, unassuming and non-threatening black man when he's in a white man's home, but again, Albert clearly has opinions born of his particular perspective. When he arrives to pick up his wife, he becomes involved in the family debate in spite of himself.

Neighbors who drop in to say goodbye include the local minister Tom (Chris Ginesi), ineffectual and close-minded; and Karl Lindner (Jeff Cote) and his pregnant wife Betsy (Melissa Claire). Karl is the only character shared with Raisin, in which he's the unsympathetic neighborhood association representative trying to buy out the Younger family to keep them out of Clybourne Park. Here, he drops in to relate his failure with the Youngers, and urge Bev and Russ to take action from their side of things. That triggers an avalanche of emotion and surprises, with no holds barred as characters reveal prejudices and beliefs that are awful to hear, but also achingly funny.

Act one is set in 1959, same as Raisin; act two takes place fifty years later, in the same home, with the same actors now playing contemporary characters. A real estate transaction is in progress in the utterly trashed home, now undergoing renovation so that a young white couple can move in. Gradually, identities are uncovered, and philosophies and ideologies fly fast and furious, amid politically incorrect jokes and confrontations based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic status—everything comes out in the wash. You laugh uproariously and groan the next, skewered with recognition that you could easily be one of these people righteously spouting inanities. Norris leaves no one safe, no one off the hook—we are all responsible, we are all accountable, and the loss of a single human being because of our inattention is inexcusable. He keeps it hilariously funny as he turns the knife.

Director Carl Jordan and his superb ensemble got it so right at 6th Street Playhouse. Never caricatures, always utterly believable and sincere, the characters romped through their racism and other isms with conviction and indignation. Their honesty was key to making the play funny as well as familiar. Kudos to 6th Street for a truly memorable production of a play that deserves our full attention.

Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, produced by 6th Street Playhouse at G. K. Hardt Theater, 52 W. 6th Street, Santa Rosa. Closed January 25, 2015. For more information go to: or call 707-523-3544.

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Jeanie K. Smith

Privacy Policy