I was surprised when Clybourne Park won the Tony for Best Play last night. I saw it at the Taper a few months ago–I didn’t want to go because the advertising claimed it was the natural followup to Raisin in the Sun which to me meant that it would be “Good Black People, Bad White People”–and was pleasantly surprised. The first act told the story of two bitter people who were selling their home in Clybourne Park to a black family because of the suicide of their ex-military son. The mother was a chatterbox, ditzing around as she packed, trying to force an appliance on a black maid who didn’t want it at all–obviously there was no communication happening between the two. The father was silent, seemingly annoyed by the chattering. When the neighbors come over to try to convince the couple not to sell to a black family we find out that the father holds the neighborhood responsible for the son’s suicide (I can’t remember why the son hanged himself in the upstairs). He’s punishing the neighbors by selling to the black family. The Liberals (most of the audience of course) flapped their hands when the sale went through and glared stonily at the neighbors when they finally came out and said that the sale would ruin the neighborhood. Their self-righteous indignation at the neighbors argument was what we’ve all come to expect. The act starts out comedic and finishes on a sad note.
The second act starts 40 years later. Clybourne Park has become the drug-and-gang infested neighborhood that had been predicted (lot of dropped jaws at that; I giggled) and some yuppies are buying the same house–which has been completely trashed. The lawyer, the architect, and the neighbors (black this time) are meeting with the new owners to discuss the plans for the house. The black people are glad to get rid of the drug dealers but object to the outlandish ideas the yuppies have for this traditional home. Ironically, they object to the attempt to change the tone of the neighborhood. And it becomes a farce when the discussion disintegrates into race baiting and name-calling. I think the point was that we’re all jerks, regardless of race, creed, or color. I enjoyed the play but I thought the best part was the confusion on the Liberals’ faces.
Anyway, go see Clybourne Park. It’ll make you think. It’s well-written and a courageous comment on the current state of discussion about race–the elephant in the room throughout. Can’t believe the Left gave it an award. Maybe they didn’t get it. Or maybe I didn’t. Hmmm.