Director Giovanna Sardelli remembers coming out of the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York after having just seen Bruce Norris' "Clybourne Park" with friends.
"It was so exciting to leave a theater and have a conversation about a play continue for two hours," she said in a recent telephone interview.
For Sardelli, that conversation is still going on. In previews through Saturday, her production of Norris' unsettling, darkly funny, Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play officially opens Sunday afternoon at Barrington Stage Company's Boyd-Quinson Mainstage, where it is scheduled to run through Oct. 13.
This is a co-production with Dorset Theatre Festival in Dorset, Vt., where the show ran Aug. 15-31.
Among the immediate rewards of doing the play again so soon and with the same cast is that "my actors can take everything they learned after Dorset and dig deeper; heighten and explore moments," Sardelli said by telephone from Louisville, Ky., where she is preparing Katori Hall's "The Mountaintop" for an Oct. 8 opening at Actors Theatre of Louisville.
Barrington Stage artistic director Julianne Boyd has been overseeing the technical rehearsals and previews.
"We share an artistic vision," Sardelli said. "I feel especially grateful to have found new artistic homes at Dorset and at Barrington Stage (where her credits include "Muckrakers," "Lord of the Flies" and "The North Pool")."
Set in a fictitious Chicago neighborhood, "Clybourne Park's" two acts unfold 50 years apart -- the first, in 1959, finds a middle-class white family preparing to sell their home to the first black family to move into this middle-class, liberal
white enclave. By the play's second act, in 2009, Clybourne Park, rundown and fading, is populated by black families, one of whom has sold their home to an upper-middle-class white family -- the first in a wave of gentrification.
"Clybourne Park" takes its cue from Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 drama, "A Raisin in the Sun," whose black family, the Youngers, is preparing at the end of the play to move from a crowded South Side Chicago apartment to a spacious house in Clybourne Park.
Besides the neighborhood, the two plays share a character, Karl Lindner, whose attempt on behalf of the Clybourne Park Homeowners Association to buy the Youngers off fails.
Lindner doesn't appear until the final scenes of "A Raisin in the Sun." He is all over the first act of "Clybourne Park."
In a 2011 print interview with Rebecca Rugg, artistic producer of Chicago's Steppenwolf theater company, Norris said that he saw the film version of "A Raisin in the Sun" in his seventh grade social studies class in an all-white school whose students, Norris said, "lived in an independent school district the boundaries of which had been formed specifically to prevent our being integrated into the Houston (Texas) school district and being bussed to other schools with black students.
"Whether our teacher was just obtuse or crafty and subversive, she was showing us a movie that basically in the end is really pointing a finger at us and saying we are these people.
"For years, I thought I wanted to play Karl Lindner, but then as time went on," Norris, a professional actor as well as playwright, told Rugg, "I thought it's really an interesting story to think about the conversation that was going on in the white community about the Younger family moving into Clybourne Park. It percolated for many years and that's how I ended up writing this play."
"Clybourne Park" had its world premiere in 2010 at Playwrights Horizon in New York and came to Broadway in 2012 via Theater Center Group in Los Angeles. The play won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize and the 2012 Tony Award for best drama.
In addition to New York and Los Angeles, "Clybourne Park" has had successful runs in Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and London, where it was honored with an Olivier Award and Evening Standard Award.
According to Theatre Communications Group, "Clybourne Park" is among the 10 most produced plays in the 2013-14 season among its not-for-profit constituent theaters, second only to David Ives' "Venus in Fur."
It's a provocative, challenging play -- for the actors, who play two different sets of characters, one for each act; for audiences, who are made to confront their beliefs and the ways they talk about race and bigotry; and for Sardelli.
"One of the challenges," she said, "is that the play exists on two levels. You have these seemingly banal conversations that fit these events but there are undercurrents.
"He'll make you laugh -- he's happy to do that -- but he's also content to let you sit there and squirm.
"He's done an amazing job in terms of showing where we've come in our conversations about race in America and he does it in such a razor-sharp way."
It's the kind of play, Sardelli says, that's perfect for both Dorset Theatre Festival and Barrington Stage.
"Dina (Janis, artistic director at Dorset) and Julie have both found ways to challenge their audiences and entertain. This play does that."