Led by the wonderful Susan Haefner and Frank Mastrone, each of the excellent actors in the show takes on two roles, portraying one character in the first act, set in 1959, and then a radically different character in the second act, set fifty years later. Clybourne Park is expertly staged on Martin Scott Marchitto's inventive set, with alterations made to the house to reflect the changes between the two different eras. By turns overwhelmingly moving and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, Clybourne Park is quite a show and the effective production at Music Theatre of Connecticut is as good an introduction to this play as one is likely to see.
In the opening moments, Susan Haefner, as Bev, and Frank Mastrone, as her husband Russ, are boxing up the last few things before they move out of their house. Rae Janeil plays their housekeeper Francine, and Nick Roesler, as Karl, does everything in his power to try to get Bev and Russ to reconsider leaving Clybourne Park. Not to spoil any of the numerous surprises that pop up in this play, but there is definitely more than meets eye about the central couple and the many skeletons they have in their closet. What truly works the best in this production is that the director has perfectly captured the tone of the two eras in the show, with the first half genuinely feeling like the late 1950s and the second half redolent of 2009. The director has also done a superb job with her actors.
Haefner and Mastrone are ideal in both acts and Rae Janeil is just perfect as Francine, and then as the outspoken woman Lena in the second half. Also scoring strongly are Nick Roesler and Allie Seibold, who play two very different couples in the show. S.J. Hannah is also very good and, if he does better in the second half, it is simply because his second act character has more to do. Matt Mancuso is likewise very convincing as two radically contrasting characters. One of the glories of Clybourne Park is what the playwright has woven into the play to make it a great companion piece to A Raisin in the Sun. More than a few things go bump in the night in this play and the production presents the controversial subject matter to the fullest.
Helping to the set the mood are the terrific costumes designed by Diane Vanderkroef, and the lighting design by RJ Romeo is striking and shapes each scene.
There are many memorable moments in this play, but the scene that stands out the most for me is during the closing moments, when the two time periods intersect. Staged with beautiful simplicity, this final scene brings the whole show full circle. Clybourne Park at Music Theatre of Connecticut is a daring and enormously powerful show, and, if one is willing to ride the many emotional waves in this production, this play is sure the inspire conversations long after the show has ended.
Clybourne Park runs through November 19, 2023, at Music Theatre of Connecticut, 509 Westport Ave, Norwalk CT. For tickets and information, please visit www.musictheatreofct.com.