WESTPORT'S RAISIN IN THE SUN -- Solid Production
By Bob & Karen Isaacs
BOB: Westport Playhouse is giving us a solid production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun under the direction of Phylicia Rashad
KAREN: This was play when it appeared on Broadway in 1959 with among others, Sidney Poitier. It was the first play by a African American woman on Broadway and it was directed by Lloyd Richards, the first African-American man to direct on Broadway.
BOB: It tells the story of three generations of the Younger family -- who live in apartment on Chicago’s south side in 1959. The family expects a life insurance check -- from Walter Younger, Sr.’s death -- but there is conflict over how to use the money.
KAREN: The son, Walter Lee wants to invest in a liquor store, his mother, Lena -- who controls the funds, is unhappy with idea. She wants to use some of the money for her daughter Beneatha’s college education and to buy a house with the rest so that they can leave their cramped and dark apartment.
BOB: The story turns on the fact that she puts a down payment on a house in Clybourne Park, an all white development. Further complication is Walter’s despair and anger over his mother’s denial of his dream. Another area explored is Beneatha’s strident opposition of what she calls “assimilation” and her infatuation with all things African.
KAREN: I’ve often felt that Hansberry tried to tackle too many issues in the scope of one play. It causes the play to feel somewhat muddled and at times too long.
BOB: As the mother, Lynda Gravatt captures the dignity and also the troubled choices that she has to make, often between her son and her daughter. She wants what is best for the family which is often difficult to determine. She creates a very moving character.
KAREN: As her son, Walter, Billy Eugene Jones shows us the despair, desires and angers of a man who feels stifled by the roles open to the black man at that time. By the end of the play he has found his dignity and respect for his family’s long heritage.
BOB: The others in cast, including Susan Kelicki Watson as Walter’s long-suffering wife and Edina Hines as Beneatha, bring out the conflicting feelings each has for their situations.
KAREN: You should make an effort to see A Raisin in the Sun at Westport Country Playhouse through November 3.
This reviewed aired on WNHU, 88.7 FM and www.wnhu.net