Dark humour in racism
An upwardly mobile 1950s black family moves to a nice white suburb; 21st century white Americans want a home in a black neighbourhood undergoing gentrification.
The house is the same, but the families have different skin colours and it’s a whole new era but how much have things changed? In neither case are the newcomers made welcome in Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer-award-winning play, Clybourne Park.
The action is set in 1959 Chicago for the first act and in 2009 for the second.
Petone actress Nikki MacDonnell said the racism is there.
‘‘I guess what Bruce Norris is saying is ‘between the 50s and now, have things changed in the way we related to racism?’ I guess he kind of pricks the subconscious.’’
In the first act, MacDonnell plays Bev.
‘‘They’re moving from their house,’’ she said. ‘‘She’s a normal 50s housewife, moving after a son had committed suicide, barely coping but got the mask on.’’
The family who want to move in are black. The inevitable conflicts are played with a lot of humour, she said.
‘‘That’s what I find such a joy. It’s rare to come across such a fantastically-written play which has this humour but also has this depth to it. You usually get one or the other, but not both.’’
Wellington actress Nancy Brunning first plays the long-suffering black maid Francine helping her employers pack up and move on, and then a stroppy black lawyer.
She represents the now black neighbourhood’s efforts to resist the white family who want to buy and demolish the house, trying to preserve the community as it was.
‘‘The second act is more about how PC-ness has gone overboard,’’ Brunning said.
Norris’ characters are complex, layered and flawed, and he confronts them with uncomfortable situations, she said.
Ross Jolly directs Clybourne Park and it features Andrew Foster, Danielle Mason, Gavin Rutherford, Jade Daniels And Paul Waggott. Strong language is used. It runs at Circa Theatre until October 6. Call 801 7992 or visit www.circa.co.nz.