By KIM HWANG
AAP staff columnist
MINNEAPOLIS (July 6, 2013) — The play, Clybourne Park, boldly required audience members to reexamine the role racial biases play in our society and within our psyches. A creative and unique interplay of intense conversations established a consistent and clever tempo.
Provoking topics, one after the other rapidly assaulted some beliefs, but affirmed others. Complex dialogues voiced perceptions about ways in which, racism effects everyone. Each character discussed concrete ideas about racial identity and how racial biases influence relationships. Inevitably, a defensive posture by those assessed as racist, continued throughout the play that runs at the Guthrie’s McGuire Proscenium Stage through August 4.
Conversations among characters were sometimes abrupt. A broad range of perspectives, historical, sociological, economic and personal created an emotional experience that made some audience members cringe, while others laughed aloud. More specifically, an ongoing dialogue about housing and property values regarding housing were used to contextualize issues about racism throughout both scenes. In addition, issues emerged regarding the economic status quo of the White majority and inequity of land ownership among people of color versus White people. Truth and reconciliation were nowhere to be found.
Zealous banter among characters underscored strongly held convictions, as well as deep fears about who should and who should not live in racially identified neighborhoods. In an effort to capture group dynamics people from varying racial backgrounds discussed race without grace, which increased tension until the end. The play write produced a twisted dialogue, which expressed ways in which racism impacts everyone emotionally and psychologically.
In addition, the play write created a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect yet again and with others, about the destructive influence racism continues to have in our lives. While American claims to be a society that desires progress when it comes to equal rights, the story line clearly reflected all of the ways we remain stagnant.
The play begged for us to look at racism through a wide-angle lens. It left us to deliberate about the importance being thoughtful. Why are we, the way we are? How do decisions we make at the micro and macro levels influence generations to come?
If the United States is truly an advanced and modern society, why can’t we obliterate racism? Why do we continue to have the same debates in 2013 that took place during the 1950s? This play provoked a plethora of internal ongoing discussions, which made me realize, it pushed all of my contemplation buttons. The troubling content should propel us towards discomfort.
The unresolved and relentless doublespeak about racism moved us from our heads into our hearts. It’s a cliffhanger! Clybourne Park reminded me that racism manifests itself in many forms. When masked, racism may sound different? But, regardless of how you package racism, it feels distinguishably distressing. The play left an impression about racism that was unclear and unsettling. Racism in the United States is unfortunately an issue that remains unresolved.