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Sunday, January 16, 2022

‘Clybourne Park’ is artful sequel to ‘Raisin in the Sun’

Jack Petro
Jack Petro

Before you take your seat at the Hippodrome State Theatre in Gainesville to see their current production, there is something you should know. First “Clybourne Park” begins where “Raisin in the Sun” ends. The character’s names are different, but the knowledge that Russ and Bev have just sold their home to a black family in a traditionally all-white middle class neighborhood is essential. Second, their son has been suffering Post Traumatic Disorder from the Korean War and has recently committed suicide in the upstairs bedroom.

Russ (Christopher Swan) cannot cope with the tragedy and is in severe depression while wife Bev (Stephanie Lynge) does her best to smooth the troubled waters. Neighbors intrude, make a counter offer trying to persuade the couple to void their contract, but Russ refuses and tries to bury the past.
Fast forward fifty years to Act II. The neighborhood is now a gentrified all-black community. A young white couple make an offer to buy a home and want to make a few alterations to the property. The shoe feels equally uncomfortable on the other foot.

The cast of 'Clybourne Park.'
The cast of ‘Clybourne Park.’

The outstanding ensemble work carries the whole show. Feelings run high. The talking-over dialogue is executed with military precision and adds to the tension and sometimes to the few laughs in the play. But the script may have gone further than necessary to get the message of racial intolerance across.
Swan gets top acting honors. He shows how he can switch from the severely troubled Russ to the happy-go-lucky Dan when ensconced with a mustache and some chewing gum. Close behind is Lynge as the Barbie Doll wife in perfect costuming. It is remarkable how her eyes well up on cue.
“Clybourne Park” is a joint presentation by equity actors along with theatre students from the University of Florida. Javon Johnson and Oluchi Nwokocha play black couples in both acts and they say much more than just the words in the script. Sean Cancellieri and Michael Pemberton also are from UF.
On each second Sunday matinee, a Q and A session is held with the cast and director. Plan your visit to include this session if possible. Sunday’s top question was to the students: What is the major difference between college and professional acting. Answer: College has a six week rehearsal time frame while at the Hipp it is two weeks.
The show captured both Pulitzer and Tony awards. Emily Green and Matthew Lindsay round out the cast. Ralf Remshardt makes his Hipp debut as Director of this somewhat complex which runs through September 29. For information on prices, directions, and ticket availability visit www.thehipp.org.

Jack Petro reviews local theater for Villages-News.com

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