Theater Review: A RAISIN IN THE SUN by Lorraine Hansberry, directed by Phylicia Rashad (Los Angeles)

by Tony Frankel on April 13, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

Post image for Theater Review:  A RAISIN IN THE SUN by Lorraine Hansberry, directed by Phylicia Rashad (Los Angeles)


In order to validate his experience of a play, a reviewer should dissect and probe the components of a production, but once in a while a show comes along which catapults the human spirit to near nirvana. Such an outing dictates more than mere analysis – it requires a plea for your attendance. Indeed, attention MUST be paid to the high standards of producer Wren T. Brown and director Phylicia Rashad for creating an event that so teems with insight into the human condition that it should be required viewing, not just as substantiation of the transcendentalism found in the theatre, but as a reminder that we should stand tall in the face of adversity. To say that there are elements of genius seems inadequate, but there are instances of revelation in A Raisin in the Sun that astound in their ability to elucidate the universal themes of identity, assimilation, family, home, and dreams, regardless of one’s skin color or financial circumstances.

A RAISIN IN THE SUN by Lorraine Hansberry, directed by Phylicia Rashad Ebony Rep (Los Angeles)The 1959 story is of The Youngers, a Chicago family that is simultaneously torn apart and brought together by the arrival of a $10,000 life insurance check. Playwright Lorraine Hansberry eloquently and gracefully sheds light on the seemingly complacent 1950s while presciently foretelling the racial uprising of the 1960s – all the more reason to continue mourning her early passing at the age of 34. This is only Rashad’s second directorial effort, and yet she guides her magnificent cast with astute observation and generosity, stretching her soul upon the stage as if she were actually there conducting her actors; it is uncanny work and heralds the arrival of the next great visionary of the American Theatre. Also present is the unadulterated love and faithful sustenance of Mr. Brown’s guiding hand. It is impossible to achieve such symmetry of excellence in cast and crew were it not for the bounty of his spirit, which is evident in every diminutive detail, such as the eggs which are cooked before our eyes on Michael Ganio’s soon-to-be award-winning set, one of the finest ever seen in the theatre.

A RAISIN IN THE SUN by Lorraine Hansberry, directed by Phylicia Rashad Ebony Rep (Los Angeles)The eggs may seem insignificant to some, but they symbolize the way that Ruth Younger (Deidrie Henry) tries in vain to nourish her husband Walter Lee (Kevin Carroll), who views the eggs as a device to stuff his mouth and stifle the articulation of his dreams. Symbols and motifs abound, but the cast never comments on their existence – they bring them vividly to life. Ms. Henry brings warmth, conflict and strength to her role in a way that makes the ephemeral nature of the theatre an insult to the Gods. All believers in acting as an art should be able to witness her performance. Mr. Carroll’s portrayal is rife with revelation and discovery.

Can it be true that Kenya Alexander is making her professional debut as Beneatha, the sister who questions the assimilation of her culture into white society? It is inspiring to observe the levels of emotion that the actress achieves. As Joseph Asagai, Beneatha’s suitor from Nigeria, Amad Jackson stuns in both physicality and power as he challenges her true independence. Scott Mosenson (one of the founders of Open Fist) brings a stark believability to Mr. Linder, the man who has other plans for the Youngers when a house is purchased in an all-white neighborhood by matriarch Lena Younger. As Lena, L. Scott Caldwell perfectly embodies both the fervency of hope and generational despondency. The entire cast sparkles with distinction.

A RAISIN IN THE SUN by Lorraine Hansberry, directed by Phylicia Rashad Ebony Rep (Los Angeles)When poet Langston Hughes pondered that forgotten dreams threaten to languish like a raisin in the sun, he validated the existence of those who bring their dreams to fruition, such as Hansberry did when she penned this, one of America’s greatest dramas. Would that so many provocative and important issues could be broached without leaving us in angry and hopeless despair; indeed, we leave the theatre invigorated and refreshed by the Ebony Repertory Theatre’s marvelous rendition of A Raisin in the Sun.

tonyfrankel @

photos by Craig Schwartz

A Raisin in the Sun
scheduled to close April 17 at time of publication
for tickets, visit

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