San Francisco: Award-winning ‘Clybourne Park’ makes West Coast premiere at A.C.T.

“We know it will trigger fascinating debates throughout the whole Bay Area community."

Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park receives its West Coast premiere at A.C.T.

Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park receives its West Coast premiere at A.C.T.San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) continues its 2010–11 season with the West Coast premiere of adamant provocateur Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park, winner of the prestigious London Evening Standard Award for Best New Play in 2010. Marking the A.C.T. mainstage debut of director Jonathan Moscone—longtime artistic director of California Shakespeare Theater—the new comedy spins the events of A Raisin in the Sun to tell an unforgettable new story about race and real estate in America.

Act I opens in 1959, as a white couple sells their home to a black family, causing uproar in their middle-class Chicago neighborhood. Act II transports us to the same house in 2009, when the stakes are different, but the debate is strikingly familiar. Amid lightning-quick repartee, the characters scramble for control of the situation, revealing how we can—and can’t—distance ourselves from the stories that linger in our houses.

“Bruce is an extraordinary writer,” said Moscone. “In this play he is able to depict the very delicate subject of race relations with a combination of piercing intelligence, genuine emotion, and sharp-edged humor. His voice is undeniable. I’m thrilled to be working with members of A.C.T.’s core acting company on this play, which is one of the most exciting and provocative pieces of theater I have ever read.”

The cast—each of whom plays dual roles in the two different eras—includes members of the A.C.T. core acting company and recent graduates of the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) Program. Core acting company members include René Augesen, Manoel Felciano, Anthony Fusco, and Gregory Wallace. Omozé Idehenre and Emily Kitchens were members of the A.C.T. M.F.A. Program class of 2010. Richard Thieriot rounds out the cast.

Jonathan Moscone, artistic director of California Shakespeare Theater, makes his A.C.T. directing debut with Clybourne Park.
Jonathan Moscone, artistic director of California Shakespeare Theater, makes his A.C.T. directing debut with Clybourne Park.

“We know Clybourne Park will trigger fascinating debates throughout the whole Bay Area community. We like to say that the third act of this play will be the postplay discussion,” says A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff.

In anticipation of lively audience response to the play—which delves into many timely topics—A.C.T. is adding Experts Talk Back, a new postshow discussion series, to the regularly scheduled InterACT events that will take place throughout the run of Clybourne Park. These talkbacks—scheduled for several Thursdays following the 8 p.m. performance—will feature local experts who will lead discussions about many of the provocative topics (including gentrification and other issues of race and class) that percolate throughout the production, specifically focusing on their relevance to the Bay Area.

Clybourne Park

January 20–February 13, 2011

American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco).

Tickets (starting at $10) are available by calling the A.C.T. Box Office at 415.749.2228 or at

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  • Greg

    Much of the incisive dialogue by its fearless playright actually provide insight superior to anything I can offer about this marvelous examination of race, and to a lesser extent marriage, in America.

    What makes it exceptional is the how the incendiary subject matter is tempered (thankfully) with humor. If it weren’t genuinely funny, it could easily descend into a lugubrious diatribe.

    The cast, with each member playing a dual role, is for the most part outstanding. They successfully navigate the edgy material without lapsing (too far) into stereotype. This is a credit not only to the talented ensemble but also the confident, tight direction by Jonathan Moscone. And the set design’s transformation between acts showcases a meticulous attention to detail which provides a perfect backdrop for the comic proceedings.

    As laudable an accomplishment this might be, however, one wonders exacty why Norris chose to deviate from the central theme and frame the story within a heavy subplot regarding a tragic death. Although I acknowledge it does provide some continuity and character motivation, from what I can discern it’s mostly unrelated to the primary events on stage.

    Notwithstanding that solitary apprehension, I highly recommend one plan a trip to the American Conservatory Theatre (formerly the Geary Theatre) tout de suite!