Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore-And then run?
These are the first few lines of Langston Hughes haunting poem "A Dream Deferred" that are draped over the stage at the opening of A Raisin in the Sun. A recording of a Lorraine Hansberry interview is ghosted though out the house - her words muffled and lost amongst the buzz of the audience, a phrase or two about her work sprout up here and there, setting the subtle and brilliant tone of this American classic.
Under the direction of Kenny Leon, who has received several Tony nominations for previous works including Best Revival of his 2004 production of Raisin in the Sun, shows not only his thorough understanding of Hansberry's work, but the thoughtfulness and value it has upon the generations of today's society. Along with the brilliant incite of Set Designer, Mark Thompson, the two create a cage of glue worn, jungle inspired wall paper – the backdrop of the famous alcohol crazed monologue, turbulently delivered by Denzel Washington – to boarder the saccharin yet stained, honey comb patterned kitchen that holds the action together.
This muted and crumbling background only magnifies the intensity in the performances of the entire cast. Denzel Washington captures the unrest and discontent of Walter Lee Young in mesmeric proportions – encapsulating the quiet rage of a man suffocating under “the glass ceiling” Pre-Civil Rights movement. Latanya Richardson Jackson is outstanding as Lena Younger with a comedic sass and queen bee authority for this idyllic matriarch. Yet the most impressive performances within the show were that of Sophie Okonedo and Anika Noni. Okonedo captivates the audience with her portrayal of Ruth Younger, a woman desperate to keep the few threads of married life and family together, while Noni shines in the role of Beneatha Younger, the sprightly and opinionated young adult thriving with the potential of what her generation could possibly bring.
With standing ovation, Raisin in the Sun is performing at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, from now till June 15th.
Review By: Sarah Hogan-DePaul
Photos By: Sara Krulwich