Every once in a while I see a play so good that it seems the only review necessary is “Don’t miss it.”
Moxie Theatre’s production of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic “A Raisin In The Sun” (running through March 4) is in that category. Brilliantly directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, this is a “Raisin” to remember.
On Sean Fanning’s appropriately frayed South Chicago set, the Younger family will play out Langston Hughes’ question “What happens to a dream deferred?” – Hansberry’s inspiration for the play.
Three generations share the cramped living quarters: presiding widowed matriarch Lena (Mama), son Walter Lee and his family, and daughter Beneatha.
Walter (Mark Christopher Lawrence) is a chauffeur who dreams of owning a liquor store, and hopes that when Mama’s insurance check comes in, he’ll be able to realize that dream.
Walter’s wife Ruth (Yolanda Franklin) and son Travis (LaTahj Myers) also share family quarters, as does Walter’s younger sister Beneatha (Kaja Dunn), a college student with medical school hopes, who also has designs on some of Mama’s money.
Speaking of that money, Mama (Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson) has her own idea: a down payment on that evidence of participation in the American dream, a house, and paying for Beneatha’s medical school.
Also in the cast are two possible suitors – and polar opposites – for Beneatha’s hand: black bourgeois George Murchison (Dail Desmond Richard), who urges her to forsake her heritage and join the new generation; and Nigerian student Joseph Asagai (Laurence Brown), who counsels just the opposite.There are generational, money and relationship squabbles as each member of this group reaches for its own dream.
There’s another character, the despicable Karl Lindner (Kent Weingardt), whose job it is to thwart those dreams.
Thompson anchors the team and commands every scene she’s in with her stunning portrayal of Mama, walking a fine line between wanting her “kids” to have everything but also wanting them to earn it.
Lawrence is heartbreaking as the too-trusting son trying to make a life for his family. Franklin is wonderful as his long-suffering wife Ruth, and young Myers holds his own with the pros as their son Travis.
Dunn’s Beneatha is imbued with hope, determination and a feminist spark that makes her possibly the most engaging character on the stage, and her scenes with beaus Richard (as George) and Brown as Asagai are wonders to behold.
Fine tech work by costume designer Alina Bokovikova, lighting designer Luke Olson and sound designer Kevin Anthenill push this to the highest level of theatrical achievement (even with Moxie’s ancient soundboard).
“A Raisin In The Sun” is a classic by any standard – and also has the distinction of being the first play by an African-American woman to be produced on Broadway.
Hansberry’s trenchant writing and Moxie’s brilliantly realized production make this a must-see.
“A Raisin In The Sun” plays through March 4 at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. Suite N.
Thursday-Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.
For tickets, call (858) 598-7620.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.