“A Raisin in the Sun” is superb! This production is powerful! There is such raw, real and passionate emotion. Lorraine Hansberry truly gave life to the struggles of Black families and the relationship dynamics that exist in the Black family.
Sitting in the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, one is captivated by the way the cast hits the ground running. There is such a highly sustained energy from the opening scene, and that energy continues throughout the production. Watching this family is like watching a family you know discussing their financial issues, their dreams and frustrations, and why they feel they are failing.
This play shows real human issues, and it deals with them in a realistic way. There is no sugar coating, only the honest, difficult truth about human nature. There is disappointment; there are people who will cheat you and take all that you have without a thought. These are people you may have trusted, but they end up teaching a hard lesson.
It is phenomenal to me to think about how much depth there is in this production. There are so many times when raw emotions reveal exposed nerves and you feel the character’s anger, frustration or pain to the point where you’ll find yourself in tears. I admit that I shed a tear at least three times while watching this production, and there were many audience members around me who were also incredibly moved.
This cast, led by Denzel Washington and directed by Kenny Leon, handles Hansberry’s work with a respect and fluidity that cannot be matched. LaTanya Richardson Jackson is extraordinary as Lena Younger, the matriarch of the Younger family. You clearly feel her distress as she sees her family erode in front of her. She is a mother struggling to keep her family together and help them keep the teachings and principles that she and her husband taught them despite what’s happening in the world around them.
Washington is dynamite as Walter Lee Younger! He is a man ready to explode, whether it is from his frustration, disappointment or the energy he receives when he feels that his mother has put faith and trust in him. Sophie Okonedo is stirring as Ruth Younger, Walter’s wife. Ruth is the glue that holds the family together, and she understands and loves Walter no matter what. She has patience with him that one can only have when they truly love someone.
Anika Noni Rose is brilliant as Beneatha Younger—a bold and independent young lady. She has a quick mind and mouth and is willing to challenge anything, including the existence of God. Bryce Clyde Jenkins is delightful as Travis, and Sean Patrick Thomas is marvelous as Joseph Asagai, the Nigerian who loves Beneatha.
This production definitely takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster that doesn’t stop until the ending scene. By the end, the family has survived and has a small glimmer of hope. This cast is worthy of Tony, Drama, Outer Critic Circle and whatever other awards are out there for this formidable revival of this classic, timeless piece. This production will also withstand the test of time because the lessons that it shares are eternal.
For more information, visit www.broadway.com/shows/raisin-sun.