(Ben Brantley's article appeared in the New York Times, 2/22.)

Good Defenses Make Good Neighbors

It takes a special vision, both clear and cockeyed, to see the present as if it were the past. Half a century separates the two acts of Bruce Norris’s “Clybourne Park,” a spiky and damningly insightful new comedy set in 1959 and 2009. In both parts of this production, which opened Sunday night at Playwrights Horizons, Mr. Norris is examining his subjects through the same merciless telescope, with a historian’s distance and an ethnographer’s detachment.

Compare this play’s two sets of characters, portrayed by one quick-witted ensemble (which includes Frank Wood and Annie Parisse), fumbling through the conversational minefields of the explosive subject of race. You’ll find that the early 21st century comes across just as quaintly mannered and shortsighted as the mid-20th century. When this crafty little satire ends, the world of February 2010 suddenly looks as dated and remote as a sepia-toned street scene.


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