A Raisin in the Sun
In her classic American play "A Raisin in the Sun," playwright Lorraine Hansberry cemented herself as a civil rights pioneer as she explored varying dreams of one black family set against the backdrop of social segregation in the 1950s.
Hansberry was the first black woman to have her play produced on Broadway. And "Raisin in the Sun" was the first Broadway play to be directed by a black director (Lloyd Richards.) The play earned four Tony Award nominations in 1960 and the 2010 revival earned Phylicia Rashad a Tony award for playing the family matriarch.
Dallas Theater Center’s "A Raisin in the Sun" is at times heart-warming and heartbreaking. It’s a riveting achievement for DTC, for director Tre Garrett and his inspiring ensemble of actors. Garrett is the Artistic Director at Jubilee Theater in Fort Worth. He directs with confidence, staging the show in a way that draws the audience further into the play as the play’s tension increases.
He also pulls passionate performances from his actors especially Liz Mikel, Bowman Wright, Ptosha Storey and Tiffany Hobbs. Scenic Designer Bob Lavalle’s much lived-in set is thrust into the audience and allows us to feel as though we are watching the drama played out in an adjoining room.
In the play, the extended Younger family lives in a cramped, small apartment in a south Chicago ghetto in 1959. Their various dreams revolve around a $10,000 check that is about to arrive in the mail.
The matriarch of the family, Lena Younger, is receiving the life insurance money from her deceased husband, Walter. Lena’s married son, Walter Jr., has big dreams of using the money to start a business.
But his wife Ruth, who seems content with her life, and his sister Beneatha, who dreams of becoming a doctor, remind Walter that the money belongs to Lena and how she chooses to use it is her business.
Lena eventually uses part of the money as a down payment on a house in the white Chicago neighborhood of Clybourne Park. This move creates tension within the Younger family and with the Clybourne Park residents who send the leader of their welcoming committee to explain to the Youngers that they are not welcome.
"A Raisin in the Sun" closes on a hopeful note and the play’s final image of Lena against the backdrop of a new home is a theatrical snapshot that will linger in your mind.
The play’s title comes from a poem by Langston Hughes who asked, "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?"
"A Raisin in the Sun" demonstrates how easy dreams are made. But the play also explores how fragile they are. The thought provoking play examines dreams broken and fulfilled. When a dream is broken, do you accept the failure and remain in place? Or do you pick yourself up and keep dreaming?
Do these dreams represent who we are? Do we define a dream fulfilled by making money? Building a family? Owning a home? Social equality? The answer, it seems, comes from the perspective of the dreamer.
In 2010, playwright Bruce Norris, in his Tony and Pulitzer prize winning play "Clybourne Park" continues "Raisin’s" tale but from the perspective of the white family in the very house that the black Younger family is trying to buy.
In a pretty nifty move, Dallas Theater Center is presenting both "A Raisin in the Sun" and "Clybourne Park" in repertory this fall. "A Raisin in the Sun" is playing now while "Clybourne Park" begins its run October 4.