Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park, winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize in New York and Olivier Award in London, is the play I’ve been waiting for since the 1980s. Although Norris previously wrote six dramas for Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Steppenwolf will finally stage his masterpiece beginning September 8th.
It’s a bitterly funny two-act play set in the same two-bedroom house on Chicago’s Near Northwest Side in white-flight 1959 and then in gentrifying 2009. Norris is superb at writing dialogue in How We Talk Now. While most playwrights live for eloquent speechifying, Norris’s 2009 characters converse realistically in interrupting, overlapping, and apologizing snatches. Moreover, Clybourne Park is the first work I can recall to capture precisely what urbanites talk about most obsessively (real estate); how they converse (euphemistically); and why (the 3Ls of real estate are “location, location, and location,” which in Chicago means, above all else, race).
In my 18 years in Chicago, I was involved in innumerable conversations that included the phrase, “It just needs a little tuckpointing.” Yet how many famous plays or movies center around real estate? Real estate and race?