The legendary play A Raisin in the Sun is on stage at the Dallas Theater Center (DTC) and it is a treat theater fans should not miss. On a Friday night the packed audience included students from two Dallas Independent School District high schools and their enthusiasm was very evident during the Q&A following the performance.
Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking play was the first production by a female African American playwright in 1959 and first to be directed by an African American, Lloyd Richards. At the time it was declared, “The play that changed America forever,” and the DTC’s production shows it is as relevant and inspiring today as it was 54 years ago.
A Raisin in the Sun looks at an African American family on the edge. They want a new future as far as possible from the poverty and bug infested apartment on the South Side of Chicago. The $10,000 question is how will they ever escape.
The family matriarch Lena Younger (Mama), played brilliantly by Dallas legend Liz Mikel, is being pulled in all different directions, as she must make a decision regarding how to spend the $10,000 check they are anxiously awaiting. The money is the life insurance payment following her husband’s death. Mikel’s performance reflects the remarkable strength of women of her era, perhaps leaving us wondering where the Mama’s in our community have gone.
Browman Wright’s portrayal of Walter Younger presents him as a man you really don’t like, but in the end your heart aches for him. Walter is chasing a dream he feels is slipping away forever. It has harden his heart and made him so selfish that you spend a good deal of time not really caring about him and wondering if perhaps the family might not be better off without him.
But Wright brings Walter’s pain very much front and center and causes you to think about the direction of your own life if you are not careful. Perhaps it is because I much older than I was when I first saw the classic film starring Sidney Poitner. Now I have had a few years to suffer disappointments and face the fear of “will what I do really matter” for myself. Ultimately, I found Wright’s performance riveting.
Ruth Younger, the peacemaker of the family and wife of Walter is brought to life by Ptosha Storey. Her quiet resolve is finally shattered and she is ready to get out as fast as she can. Storey does a great job of making the transformation from a wall flower to a woman ready to speak for herself.
Tiffany Hobbs as Walter’s younger sister Beneatha is the voice of aspiring youth seeking to make her own mark on the world. She is in medical school pursuing her dream of being a doctor, while enjoying attention from two very different suitors. Her youthful arrogance and enthusiasm is well handled in Hobb’s capable hands.
The young students dominated the questions to the cast at the Dr Pepper Snapple Stay Late session with the cast offered immediately following each performance. One young student bravely shared how the betrayal in the play has happened to his family and the painful fallout. For many of the young audience members, “black theater” equals Tyler Perry and they were astounded by the production.
A Raisin in the Sun is on stage at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre until Oct. 27 and tickets are available at www.DallasTheaterCenter.org. Families, friends and simply anyone who want to “experience” the power of theater should see this timeless classic brought to life.