Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park is an acerbic satire tracing the fault line between race and property through the changing ownership of a property in Clybourne Street, central Chicago. It is also a witty riff on Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal 1959 drama A Raisin in the Sun, the first play by a black female playwright to run on Broadway.
Clybourne Park was first performed at Playwrights Horizons, New York City, on 21 February 2010.
The play is set in the interior of 'a modest three-bedroom bungalow, 406 Clybourne Street, in the near north-west of central Chicago'. In the opening act, set in 1959, Russ and Bev are moving out after a family tragedy. Their son committed suicide in the house, after going off the rails during the Korean War, and they are desperate to get out. They are selling the place for a knock-down price, which means that a black family will be moving in, much to the disquiet of neighbourhood resident Karl, who pops round to tell Bev and Russ – in front of the black maid Francine – that they are undermining property values. In the second act, set in 2009, the same property is being bought by Lindsey and Steve, a young white couple who want to build a new house on the same plot, but face hostility from the all-black residents' committee who are concerned that white newcomers will erase the cultural significance of the area.
Part of the power of Clybourne Park derives from how the events in the play intersect with those in Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. In the earlier play, the black Youngers plan to move into a white neighborhood when a character named Karl Lindner, a representative of the community association, offers to buy them out. In the first act of Clybourne Park, the same Karl Lindner tries to persuade the house’s white owners not to sell to a black family – the Youngers, it is assumed – out of fear of what that would do to the property values and the culture of the neighbourhood.
The Playwrights Horizons production was directed by Pam MacKinnon. It was performed by Frank Wood, Christina Kirk, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brendan Griffin, Damon Gupton, Jeremy Shamos and Annie Parisse. The production transferred to Broadway the following year.
The play received its European premiere at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, London, on 2 September 2010 (previews from 26 August), directed by Dominic Cooke and designed by Robert Innes Hopkins. It was performed by Steffan Rhodri, Sophie Thompson, Lorna Brown, Sam Spruell, Lucian Msamati, Martin Freeman, Sarah Goldberg and Michael Goldsmith.
This production received its West End premiere at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London, on 8 February 2011 (previews from 28 January), with some changes to the cast.
The play received numerous awards, including the London Evening Standard Award for Best Play, the Critics Circle Award for Best New Play, the Olivier Award for Best New Play, the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.