SCENE FROM ‘CLYBOURNE PARK’—Chandra Thomas and Bjorn DuPaty in a scene from “Clybourne Park.”
Playing multiple characters in one production is right in Chandra Thomas’ wheelhouse.
“I love solo shows and multiple characters. That’s the kind of stuff that’s so rich and it gets to the core of people’s humanity. It really shows the human experience,” said Thomas who resides in New York.
Thomas will be playing in the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s production of “Clybourne Park.” Written by Bruce Norris in 2010, “Clybourne Park” is set at 406 Clybourne Street, the same house in Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” in Chicago in 1959 and 2009. In the first act, Karl Lindner who first showed up in “A Raisin in the Sun,” tries to convince the White homeowners of the property not to sell their home to a Black family. Fast forward 50 years later in act two and the neighborhood is all African-American. Now a white family buys 406 Clybourne Street with the intention to tear it down and put a larger house on the property. A Black company from the local homeowners association challenges the architectural integrity of the project.
“Each character is playing two roles and each time period and character has different sensibilities. It’s like doing two different plays at one time,” Thomas said. “We’re seeing the politics and the dynamics of the time and the power of racism. In the second act, the house is in complete disrepair. Its a lower class middle class working Black people expansion of the community.”
“It’s a really masterful play and what is fascinating is that if we had been playing one character throughout, we would’ve been challenged to dig deeper,” Thomas continued. “The play is funny and the audience will laugh. While their laughing at different moments and hard-hitting and relevant issues, hopefully it will bring about dialogue.”
“Clybourne Park,” which is part of Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Made in America season, won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, Britain’s Olivier Award and the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play.