A Scene From ‘Clybourne Park’

By Bruce Norris

September 2009, Chicago: STEVE and LINDSEY, a white couple, have just purchased the Youngers’ old house in Clybourne Park and are planning to tear it down. KEVIN and LENA, a black couple representing Clybourne Park’s neighborhood association, have come to the house to discuss the plans. KATHY is a real-estate lawyer representing STEVE and LINDSEY.

LENA: I’m asking you to think about the motivation behind the long-range political initiative to change the face of this neighborhood. [Another little pause]

LINDSEY: What does that mean? [to STEVE] Do you know what—?

STEVE: [to LENA] Wait, say that again?

KEVIN: The long-range what?

LENA: I mean that this is a highly desirable area.

STEVE: Well, we desire it.

LENA: I know you do.

LINDSEY: Same as you.

LENA: And now the area is changing.

KATHY: And for the better, right?

LENA: And I’m saying that there are certain economic interests that are being served by those changes and others that are not. That’s all.

STEVE: [suspiciously] And … which interests are being—?

LENA: [systematically] If you have a residential area, in direct proximity to downtown?

STEVE: Right?

LENA: And if that area is occupied by a particular group?

STEVE: Which group?

LINDSEY: [to LENA] You know what? We’re talking about one house.

LENA: [to LINDSEY] I understand that.

STEVE: Which group?

LINDSEY: A house for our family?

STEVE: Which group?

LENA: That’s how it happens.

LINDSEY: In which to raise our child?

STEVE: No, no. Which group?

LENA: It happens one house at a time.

STEVE: Whoa whoa whoa. Okay. Stop right there.

LINDSEY: What are you doing?

STEVE: No. I’m sorry, but can we just come out and say what it is we’re actually—? Shouldn’t we maybe do that? Because if that’s what this is really about, then … Jesus, maybe we oughta save ourselves some time and and and and just … say what it is we’re really saying instead of doing this elaborate little dance around it.

[Dead stop. All stare at STEVE.]

STEVE: Never mind.

KATHY: What dance?

STEVE: I—I —I —I shouldn’t have—whatever.

LENA: [Parsing his meaning] So … you think I haven’t been saying what I actually—?

STEVE: [Laughs] Uhhh … Not to my way of thinking, no.

LENA: Well, what is it you think I’m—?

STEVE: I—I—I … [Laughs incredulously] … like we don’t all know?

LINDSEY: I don’t.

STEVE: Oh, yes you do. Of course you do.

KEVIN: Well, maybe you oughta tell us what you think she was saying.

STEVE: Oh, oh, but it has to be me?

LENA: Well, you’re the one who raised the question as to— [cont’d.]

STEVE: [Laughs, overlapping] Oh, come on. It was blatant.

LENA: [continuous] —the sincerity of my speech.

LINDSEY: What the fuck, Steve?

STEVE: You know what? Forget I said it.

LINDSEY: You didn’t say anything.

LENA: Oh, no, I’m interested.

STEVE: Let’s forget the whole—

STEVE: [continuous] —Okay, Okay. If you ­really want to—It’s … [Tries to laugh, then, sotto] … it’s race. Isn’t it? You’re trying to tell me that that … That implicit in what you said— That this entire conversation … isn’t at least partly informed—am I right? [Laughs nervously, to Lena] By the issue of … [sotto] of racism?

[Beat, then]

LINDSEY: [to STEVE] Are you out of your—? [to LENA] I have no idea where this is coming from.

STEVE: [to LINDSEY] And please don’t do that to me, okay? I’ve asked you repeatedly.

LENA: Well, the original issue was the inappropriately large house that— [cont’d.]

STEVE: [to LENA, overlapping] Oh, come on.

LENA: [continuous] —you’re planning to build. Only, now I’m fairly certain that I’ve been called a racist.

STEVE: But I didn’t say that, did I?

LENA: Sounded like you did.

STEVE: [to KEVIN] Did I say that?

KEVIN: Yeah, you kinda did.

STEVE: In what way did I say that?

KEVIN: Uh, somebody said racism.

STEVE: -Cism! -Cism! Not -cist!!

KEVIN: Which must originate from somewhere.

STEVE: And which we all find totally reprehensi—

KEVIN: So—are you the racist?

STEVE: Can I just—?

A Scene From ‘Clybourne Park’