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Playmakers Repertory Company Breathes New Life into a Classic

 

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The “Raisin in the Sun” cast includes (standing from left) Miriam Hyman as Beneatha Younger, Mikaal Sulaiman as Walter Lee Younger, Dee Dee Batteast as Ruth Younger, and Victor Waddell as Travis Younger, plus Kathryn Hunter-Williams (seated) as Lena Younger (photo by Jon Gardiner)

It may be early in the year, but it’s safe to say that Playmakers Repertory Company’s production of “A Raisin in the Sun” will be one of the highlights of 2013. Lorraine Hansberry’s iconic tale of a struggling African-American family in the late 1950s proves to be just as pertinent today when placed in the able hands of director Raelle Myrick-Hodges. A superb cast—from the smallest bit part all the way on up to the leading role—and a quaint, realistic set add to the beauty of this piece and make it an absolute must-see for all theatre lovers.

Viewers—no matter their race or their station in life—are thoroughly drawn into the lives of the Youngers. Family matriarch, Lena, beautifully portrayed by Kathryn Hunter-Williams, is about to come into a large sum of money, and son Walter Lee (Mikaal Sulaiman) longs to invest it and find the life that has always been just outside of his grasp. What transpires will change the family’s life in unexpected ways. All of the emotional highs and lows play out in a way that is gently comic, achingly sad, and astoundingly honest.

Sulaiman, in his PRC debut, brings anger and a surprising amount of vulnerability to the classic role. Also notable here is Dee Dee Batteast as his loving wife, Ruth; Miriam A. Hyman as his spirited, goal-driven sister, Beneatha; and young Victor Waddell as his ten year old son, Travis. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more endearing cast for this production or a more believable family.

Each scene flows seamlessly into the next, interspersed with real-live audio clips featuring the play’s author. This sophisticated touch, combined with dramatic lighting choices, makes the play nothing short of magic. While the piece touches on many themes—from the hunt for identity to the realization of dreams—the true heart of it is best expressed by Hansberry herself:

“…[I]t is a play that tells the truth about people, Negroes and life and I think it will help a lot of people to understand how we are just as complicated as they are—and just as mixed up—but above all, that we have among our miserable and downtrodden ranks—people who are the very essence of human dignity. That is what, after all the laughter and tears, the play is supposed to say”

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews