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Clybourne Park – Music Theatre of Connecticut, Norwalk, CT, USA

MTC - Clybourne Park
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We saw the Tony Award winning play Clybourne Park performed at the Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) in Norwalk, Connecticut on opening night, and it is a powerhouse of an impactful play written by Bruce Norris that will have you talking about it, and thinking about it, long after you leave the theatre. Pamela Hill directs the Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner and has a well-chosen cast comprised of Susan Haefner, SJ Hannah, Rae Janeil, Matt Mancuso, Frank Mastrone, Nick Roesler, and Allie Siebold. Clybourne Park is live theatre at its best and runs until November 19, 2023.

Clybourne Park was inspired by Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin In The Sun, which made its debut on Broadway in 1959. For the two-act play, Clybourne Park, playwright Bruce Norris sets the first act in Chicago in 1959, where the plot is about a white family in a white neighborhood who is selling their home. The scene opens to a house in disarray, with packing boxes stacked on the floor, the sofa, and the chairs. It is a scene familiar and relatable to all who have ever moved, where memories, as well as possessions, are carefully tucked away into boxes.

MTC - Clybourne Park - Susan Haefner - photo by Alex MongilloSusan Haefner (Bev)
Clybourne Park

However, the sale of the house is just the tip of the iceberg as Bev played by Broadway veteran Susan Haefner, and Russ played by Broadway veteran Frank Mastrone, deal with their emotions and their reasons for wanting to leave their home. On the surface, the preparations for moving seem as they should be, possessions are being packed away by Bev and their housekeeper Francine, played by Rae Janeil, with Russ playfully teasing his wife and eating the contents of the refrigerator so that nothing goes to waste.

MTC - Clybourne Park - Frank Mastrone, Susan Haefner, Matt Mancuso - photo by Alex MongilloFrank Mastrone (Russ), Susan Haefner (Bev),
Matt Mancuso (Jim)
Clybourne Park

The tension begins and the plot deepens when their clergyman Jim, played by Matt Mancuso, comes to visit at Bev’s request, to speak with Russ who is in a funk and deeply depressed over the loss of their son, Kenneth. It has been over 2 years since their son died, yet Russ has not moved forward. A death of a child is always painful, and for Bev and Russ the emotional pain sits just below the surface ready to explode at any time. Jim’s showing up at the house uninvited, puts the emotional pot of water on the stove to simmer.

When their neighbor Karl, played by Nick Roesler comes to visit with his very pregnant and deaf wife Betsy, played by Allie Siebold, the simmering pot of emotions comes to a full rolling boil. In the guise of representing the community, Karl wants to stop the sale of the house. He asks Russ if he knew that the sale was to a black family. Russ replies that he did not know, nor does he care. Nick Roesler delivers a performance as the antagonist Karl with such credibility that the stage action is powerfully wrought as the tension between Russ and Karl increases with each hostile word.

For Karl, he believes that the community and more importantly their real estate values will be impacted negatively by allowing the black family to move into the house and believes that Russ owes it to the community to stop the sale.

For Russ, he wants to know why he should worry about the so-called good of the community when the community has not been supportive of his family. Over the course of a heated argument, we learn that when their son Kenneth returned from the Korean War, he could not find a job and was shunned by the community, until the stress of war and dealing with the aftereffects became so devastating that he committed suicide in the house. If life was hard for Russ and Bev before their son’s suicide, it became even harder afterwards as the community turned their back on them and further ostracized them.

MTC - Clybourne Park - SJ Hannah, Rae Janeil, Matt Mancuso, Susan Haefner, Frank Mastrone, Nick Roesler, Allie Siebold - photo by Alex MongilloSJ Hannah (Albert), Rae Janeil (Francine), Matt Mancuso (Jim),
Susan Haefner (Bev), Frank Mastrone (Russ), Nick Roesler (Nick),
Allie Siebold (Betsy)
Clybourne Park

To further confusion, and as tensions rise, Russ and Bev ask their housekeeper Francine and her husband Albert, played by SJ Hannah, both black, to offer their opinion on the matter, until Russ ultimately explodes and throws everyone out of his house, closing Act One.

Act Two takes place 50 years later in 2009, and the neighborhood is now mostly all-black, and the same house has been bought by a white family. With gentrification on the rise, the community now struggles to hold its position. When the neighborhood community comprised of Lena played by Rae Janeil and her husband Kevin, played by SJ Hannah, meet with the new homeowners Steve played by Nick Roesler, and his wife Lindsey, played by Allie Siebold, to discuss their architectural plans to raze the existing house to a much larger and taller house the tensions rise. Anchoring this group is Steve and Lindsey’s attorney, Kathy played by Susan Haefner, and the other attorney Tom played by Matt Mancuso.

MTC - Clybourne Park - SJ Hannah, Rae Janeil, Nick Roesler - photo by Alex MongilloSJ Hannah (Kevin), Rae Janeil (Lena), Nick Roesler (Steve)
Clybourne Park

Over the course of the dialogue, we learn that Lena is related to the owner of the house bought in 1959, so she has emotional involvement in the property as well as her concerns about the architectural plans. Kathy, the attorney, is the daughter of Karl and Betsy from Act One, and thus also has emotional ties involved. Once again Nick Roesler does an amazing job as the antagonist Steve and delivers a performance that makes you want to go up on stage and knock him down as he antagonizes everyone with his hurtful “jokes” which escalates in a free for all with Lena throwing in a few jabs as well. Frustrated, Lena, Kevin, Steve, Lindsey, Tom, and Kathy exit the house having made little progress towards finding a resolution.

MTC - Clybourne Park - Nick Roesler, SJ Hannah, Frank Mastrone, Rae Janeil, Allie Siebold - photo by Alex MongilloNick Roesler (Steve), SJ Hannah (Kevin), Frank Mastrone (Dan),
Rae Janeil (Lena), Allie Siebold (Lindsey)
Clybourne Park

Bruce Norris deftly ties the past (Act One) with the present (Act Two) when Dan the contractor, played by Frank Mastrone discovers a trunk buried in the back yard. Sitting alone in the living room, Dan opens the trunk with the hope of finding treasure inside, and instead finds Kenneth’s dog tags and his suicide note. The ending is both evocative, powerful, and resonating.

When you have a play that addresses sensitive topics, the actors must be top-notch and the cast for Clybourne Park delivers performances that make an impact and will resound long after you leave the play, which is exactly what live theatre is all about. It is the ability to elicit emotions that distinguishes a memorable play, and Clyborne Park, winner of the Olivier Award for Best Play (2011), the Tony Award for Best Play (2012), and the Pulitzer Prize (2011), does exactly that and more. Bravo!

Until next time, keep enjoying and supporting the arts!

Clybourne Park runs from November 3 -19, 2023. The runtime is 2 hours and 15 minutes including a 15-minute intermission.

Clybourne Park Performance Schedule: Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm. There are 2 Thursday performances on September 21 and September 28 at 7:00 pm.

Post-Show Talkbacks with Dr. Sharon J. White: November 11th at 2:00 pm, November 17th at 8:00 pm, and November 18th at 2:00 pm.

For information or to purchase tickets, please visit the website: https://www.musictheatreofct.com/, call the box office at 1-203-454-3883, or email them at: admin@musictheatreofct.com.

The box office is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 am until 3:30 pm and 2 hours before every performance.

Clybourne Park – The Cast

Susan Haefner
SJ Hannah
Rae Janeil
Matt Mancuso
Frank Mastrone
Nick Roesler
Allie Siebold

Clybourne Park – The Creative Team

Bruce Norris
Diane Vanderkroef
Costume Design
Jon Damast
Sound Design
Martin Scott Marchitto
Scenic Design
RJ Romeo
Lighting Design
Dan O’Driscoll
Fight & Intimacy Choreography
Dr. Sharon J. White
Cultural Consulting
Abbey Murray
Stage Management
Pamela Hill

Current and Upcoming Productions for 2023

Clybourne Park
November 3 – 19, 2023
The Legend of Georgia McBride
February 16 – March 3, 2023
Ghost The Musical
April 12- 28, 2023

About MTC

“Music Theatre of Connecticut is the premier provider of musical theatre performance and training. Founded in 1987, we produce an annual series of Equity productions featuring New York professionals (MTC MainStage), numerous annual student productions, and a conservatory-style School of Performing Arts with curriculum-based training for students ages four through high school, including the nationally recognized College-Bound in the Performing Arts program for performance career-focused high school students.”

“The Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) was founded in 1987 by Kevin Connors (Artistic Director and Co-Founder) and Jim Schilling (Co-Founder), where MTC’s focus is musical theatre performance and training.”

You might also like to read our Backstage Interview – Kevin Connors & Jim Schilling of Music Theatre of Connecticut to learn the backstory.

For more information on the Music Theatre of Connecticut, please visit their website: www.MusicTheatreofCT.com.

Music Theatre of Connecticut, Norwalk, CT USA

Music Theatre of Connecticut
509 Westport Avenue
(Enter the Bright Beginnings parking lot and look for MTC’s orange awning)
Norwalk, Connecticut 06851
United States
Box Office: +1-203-454-3883
Fax: +1-203-557-0496
Website: www.MusicTheatreofCT.com
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