I don’t usually do this. In fact, I have purposefully not done this before so that when I did do this (and I am about to do it now) I would have earned your trust enough so that you would believe me when I say A.C.T.’s current production of Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park is spectacular. Before now I’ve hesitated to unreservedly gush about productions from where I work because of some code engrained in me from when my father was the head of the conflict of interest committee at the med school where he works. But just as one should call a spade a space, one must call a hit a hit.
I went to the first preview on Thursday and was riveted. I literally held onto my armrests for support. By the time I got home an hour after the curtain went down, I wanted to see it again. That never happens.
I read the play back when we were doing season planning a year ago, and I read it again when I wrote the synopsis for our study guide, and I read it again when I was writing articles about gentrification and the play’s connection to Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. I always thought it was good. I never knew it was as good as what I saw. I was talking to playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb about this when I interviewed him on Friday (he is writing a 12-person play called Litter for our M.F.A. Program third-years; it opens in March). I theorized that Norris’s background as an actor gave him an insight that writers-who-have-always-been-writers don’t innately have—the power to know what will play. Because, on the page Clybourne Park is a well-constructed script with fantastic dialogue and dangerous themes; on the stage, it is a vehicle for powerhouse performances by seven actors, and it traps an audience the same way a rollercoaster traps its passengers. The bar goes down, and suddenly you are on a emotional incline that will soon drop you for 2 hours of mental loopdy-loops. You will laugh. You will squirm. You will trill with glee and horror.
You cannot miss this show. Seriously. Please do not miss this show. If you do miss this show I fear you will be on a different page than all those theatergoers in the Bay Area who do see this show. This show will be a frame of reference about the power of theater, about what professional acting should look like, about what a genius director can create, about how scenery should look in non-profit theater of a certain budget. Reviews have not yet been submitted since the critics will not come until Wednesday, but we’re already selling out shows by sheer word-of-mouth. And one of the tragedies about non-profit theater is that even with the best of shows you cannot extend indefinitely—our next show must open when it must open. If you miss this show, you miss it.