By Victoria L. Dammer

What would you say or not say, do or not do, to get approval from the membership committee to join “The Club” so you could play tennis, swim, and just fit in?

The performance of Chris Bohjalian’s The Club at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick is filled with jokes, laughter, and startling, uncomfortable, in-your-face racism, exposing destructive attitudes that rip apart neighbors, marriages, and friends.

Bohjalian presents three married couples partying in suburbia in 1968, and alcohol fuels conversations. All sides of racism prevalent from that era come forward in their words and deeds. It is something we are still experiencing every day in our country and communities.

13-year-old Olive Barrows (Skyler Hensley) wakes to a family feud between her father Richard (Frederick Weller) and mom Anna (Ali Marsh) the morning after heavy-duty drinking with neighbors. Food, liquor bottles, and her broken records litter the room, a scene Olive has seen often.

Anna caught Richard playing “Tonsil Hockey” with Marion Willows (Grace Experience), the much younger second wife of the head of the club’s membership committee, John (Brendan Ryan). Richard glimpsed Anna on John’s lap. Neighbors Peter Kendricks (Ryan George) and his wife Angela (Samaria Nixon-Fleming) partied as well, but with no transgressions.

The big question still left unanswered after the evening of festivities is whether the tony club has voted the Kendricks, who are African American, in as members.

Peter shows up while Anna and Richard are fighting, wanting to know the answer. Richard doesn’t have the heart to expose the vitriol that went down with the committee and tells Peter to wait for a formal answer. Her husband’s lack of openness disgusts Anna, and she arranges another evening for all six individuals to discuss the issue openly.

Once again, alcohol heightens the temperament of all involved. All six adults willingly subject themselves to a place of pain that can never be repaired because of the lies and deceit that surround their supposed friendship.

Olive is the wisest of them all, a compassionate teenager who can’t grasp the division the color line brings to her parents, the Kendricks, and the Willows. She agrees with her mom that 2025 will be just as racist. The silence of the audience certainly proved all agreed with this sad state of human frailty.

“Lies we tell. Lies we live.” That statement at the end of the play tells the message of The Club. Humanity has learned little since 1968 and the uncomfortable laughter we all experienced during the 80-minute drama proves we need to do more to change the destructive sentiment of racism.

The Club brings much emotion to the forefront and proves racism cripples. It teaches the lesson we should strive to dispel racism in our communities, no matter what color we are.

The Club by Chris Bohjalian is running through March 17. Starring Skyler Hensley, Frederick Weller, Ali Marsh, Ryan George, Samaria Nixon-Fleming, Grace Experience, and Brendan Ryan. Directed by David Saint; Production Stage Management by Samantha Flint; Production Management by Christopher J. Bailey; General Manager Scott Goldman; Casting by McCorkle Casting; Press by Print Shop PR. The running time is approximately 80 minutes with no intermission

The George Street Playhouse, 11 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick.