It helps to be versed in the famous 1959 Lorraine Hansberry play about prejudice: A Raisin in the Sun, in order to catch the satire of this Pulitzer Prize winning play, Claybourne Park. Taking place in the same time zone, the first act of this play tells a similar story of blacks starting to move into a white neighborhood near Chicago. This time, it is the white family leaving who receive prejudiced encounters with their community organization.
However the twist here is when the wheel turns from blacks moving into white neighborhoods to the second act, 50 years later, when it’s vice versa. That same neighborhood did eventually become an ethnically proud black neighborhood, but now it is the white urbanites looking for a a good price on real estate near downtown Chicago who buy the same property. The black community group decries the ripping apart of a heritage home into a tall modernized property which would ultimately change the face of their neighborhood.
This play really shows off the versatility of the actors, as they must play entirely different characters in each half of the show. Lisa Bronwyn Moore goes from being a too shrill 50’s matron to a cool lawyer, while Eleanor Noble does a skillful job as Betsy, the wife of the smarmy head of the housing committee. She evolves from an uncomfortable portrait of a comically deaf pregnant 50’s woman into the forceful new home buyer.
Her husband (Karl Lindmer) unfortunately plays slimy husbands in both halves, and he plays them well. Liana Montoro plays a tight polite 50’s maid and then shifts 180 degrees into a sassy enforcer of the community group’s ideals – and does both parts admirably. Kwasi Songui gets to stretch his skills from appearing as the maid’s husband, a self-effacing colored man, into a strong successful member of the upper echelons of Chicago’s social ladder. Harry Stanjofski shows off his blue collar talents in both halves.
Kudos go to the set designer, Michael Eagan and lighting designer Guy Simard, who imagine the same set twice – and to the stagehands who have to move the old one out and the new one in during the short intermission.
In the second half of this dramady, as you watch them all play politely politically correct people having a discussion about the property codes involved, respectability suddenly erodes as their real inner feelings come to the surface. And there you have it – it’s what’s really inside of us that counts in the end.
Location: 453 St-Francois Xavier
Dates: til April 30
Prices $28- $51 (depends on age and day of show)
Metro: Place d’Armes