A comedy of bad manners

BCA ResCo - SpeakEasy Stage Company - Clybourne Park
Paula Plum, left, and DeLance Minifee have a chat in “Clybourne Park.” Photo: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo

There’s a simmering cauldron of raging emotions lying just beneath the surface as SpeakEasy Stage Company’s superb production of “Clybourne Park” begins. Slowly, the seemingly plodding pace picks up until it all comes to a head, twice, in some of the finest, funniest theater of the season.

Until you’re in the middle of this tumultuous mix of race, gender and class conflict, you don’t see the brilliance of director M. Bevin O’Gara’s work. Her flawlessly cast 7-person ensemble creates 14 rather unlikable characters trying to maintain a sense of decorum as they fight for what they believe is rightfully theirs.

Oddly enough, the most likable character is deaf. And while she can’t hear, the others simply don’t want to. Shouting, ignoring, talking over one another or rudely interrupting to take seemingly banal phone calls is all part of the human condition on display. Their collective irritation with others is uncomfortable to watch, riotously funny and yet a bit too close to home for most people.

Part of the show’s magic is the stunning ensemble work of its actors. There are no stars despite a cast that features long-time local favorites Paula Plum and Thomas Derrah.

Playwright Bruce Norris’ biting comedy chronicles the integration and subsequent gentrification of a Chicago neighborhood first in 1959 and later 2009. The home at the center of the controversy is the same house the Younger family intends to inhabit in Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.”

Norris smartly avoids being heavy-handed, instead letting the neurotic foibles of two distinct generations take center stage as they painstakingly avoid the four-letter word that fuels their ire, race. As funny as “Clybourne Park” is, it’s also disturbing to see how little society has actually changed.

If you go:

Clybourne Park
Through March 30
Roberts Studio Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts
539 Tremont St., Boston
$25-$52, 617-933-8600
www.SpeakEasyStage.com


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