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A Raisin in the Sun

a Drama
by Lorraine Hansberry

COMPANY : Lionheart Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : College Street Playhouse
ID# 4988

SHOWING : November 04, 2016 - November 20, 2016



Set on Chicago’s South Side, the plot revolves around the divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger family: son Walter Lee, his wife Ruth, his sister Beneatha, his son Travis and matriarch Lena. When her deceased husband’s insurance money comes through, Mama Lena dreams of moving to a new home and a better neighborhood in Chicago.

Director Joanie McElroy
Set design and decor Tanya Moore
Mama Celeste Campbell
Walter Rahshaun Cormier
Karl Lindner Jay Croft
Bobo Darrell D Grant
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A Plum
by playgoer
Thursday, November 17, 2016
At this point in time, "A Raisin in the Sun" can be considered a classic drama. It’s dated in a few respects, particularly in terms of its characters’ views on African colonialism, but most of it seems very contemporary. Racial discrimination in housing still exists, although not usually in quite so blatant a form as in this play, and striving for a better life is something shared by all people at all times and in all societies.

Lionheart Theatre Company is presenting a terrific production of this classic. The set, designed by Tanya Moore, perfectly captures the neat but worn apartment inhabited by the Younger family. A tiny kitchen is placed stage left. Doors upstage of it lead to the hall and to the shared bedroom of Mama and her daughter Beneatha. The bedroom of son Walter and his wife Ruth is hidden behind hanging sheets stage right, with a loveseat in front of it functioning as the bedroom of their son Travis. Above it all is a clothesline and window and wall fragments suggesting an apartment building. Add in the terrific period props by Nancy Keener, the splendid wigs, and the spot-on costumes by Rose Bianco and the physical production by itself is impressive.

Bob Peterson’s sound design is wonderful, giving us a very natural soundscape, including period music to cover scene transitions. The show starts with a recording of the cast reciting from the Langston Hughes poem from which the play takes its title. Following this, Gary White’s light design uses shadowplay on the stage right sheets, giving us a very atmospheric entry into the world of the play. Lighting otherwise illuminates the stage as necessary for the time of day, with just one unnecessary spotlight effect as Walter climbs on a table for an impassioned speech that holds the stage all on its own.

It’s the acting that enthralls. Rahshaun Cormier is all barely suppressed anger as Walter, watching his dreams thwarted at every turn, and Mr. Cormier does the role up right. Jessica Wise has a much more optimistic role as Beneatha, and she plays the character winningly. Celeste Campbell triumphs as Mama, appearing completely natural in the role and yet hitting all the right dramatic notes. Markia Chappelle doesn’t seem quite so natural as Walter’s wife Ruth, but she also hits all the dramatic moments set out by the script and by Joan McElroy’s taut direction.

The minor roles are also filled by able actors. Darrell Grant (Bobo) and Christian "CJ" Gamble (Travis) don’t have much chance to shine. Bryan Smellie (George) and Esosa Idahosa (Joseph Asagai) believably portray Beneatha’s competing suitors, and both do very creditable work. Jay Croft has only a couple of scenes as Karl Lindner, but mingles natural sweetness with bigotry in a very affecting fashion. Victoria Wilson (Mrs. Johnson) has only one scene, but she comes on like a force of nature and exits to a flurry of admiring applause.

When a production is consistently this good, the handiwork of the director has accomplished this feat. Ms. McElroy consistently creates first-rate productions that rise head and shoulders above typical fare at the theatres she works at. "A Raisin in the Sun" is no exception to this. It’s a plum. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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