2009-02-19 / News

Emotion commands the stage in Trinity Rep's production of 'A Raisin in the Sun'

By Jeff McDonough

Angela K. Thomas as Beneatha Younger, Joe Wilson Jr. as Walter Lee Younger, Barbara Meek as Lena Younger, Nigel Richards as Travis Younger, and Lynnette R. Freeman as Ruth Younger in "A Raisin in the Sun." Photos by Mark Turek Angela K. Thomas as Beneatha Younger, Joe Wilson Jr. as Walter Lee Younger, Barbara Meek as Lena Younger, Nigel Richards as Travis Younger, and Lynnette R. Freeman as Ruth Younger in "A Raisin in the Sun." Photos by Mark Turek Classic literature is engaging and reaches across generations. The Trinity Repertory Company proves that point with its dramatic production of "A Raisin in the Sun."

Written by Lorraine Hansberry in the late 1950s, "A Raisin in the Sun" is considered by many to be one of the most important works of the 20th century. "One of the reasons this play is so great is that it is utterly specific and at the same time utterly timeless," says the play's director, Brian McEleney.

"A Raisin in the Sun" exposes the emotion of ordinary people who confront the harsh reality of their dreams. The play is about family, and yet it tackles race and discrimination head on, asking what will happen to the "dreams deferred." The play takes its name from "Harlem," a poem by Langston Hughes: "Does it dry up / like a raisin in the sun? / Or does it explode?"

Joe Wilson Jr. as an angry Walter Lee Younger and Barbara Meek as Lena Younger in "A Raisin in the Sun." Joe Wilson Jr. as an angry Walter Lee Younger and Barbara Meek as Lena Younger in "A Raisin in the Sun." Fifty years later, the play remains just as poignant, as our nation still addresses racism and religious tolerance, even with the recent inauguration of our nation's first African-American president. In the 1950s, we were talking about "change," just as we are in 2009.

Many of us are familiar with the story, having read this play in high school or college. It was made into a movie. "A Raisin in the Sun" is set on the South Side of Chicago. The story is about the Younger family, who are about to receive a $10,000 insurance check following the death of the elder Mr. Younger.

The Youngers live in tenement housing. The insurance settlement is a life-altering opportunity and everyone in the family has a different idea of what should be done with the money. Mama wants to buy a house for the family. Her son, Walter Lee, is a chauffeur and dreams of opening a liquor store and being in control of his life. His wife, Ruth, learns she is expecting their second child and also wants a home for the family. Walter Lee's sister Beneatha wants to use the money to pay for tuition to medical school.

The family struggles with balancing each of their American dreams. Whose dreams are more important? Underlying emotions are laid bare as each of the Youngers strive to better their lives.

"A Raisin in the Sun" remains as compelling today as it was when the play first opened on Broadway in 1959. This play should start the conversation. It should be shared with your family and discussed at the dinner table. Take the kids. Talk about race and tolerance and dreams.

"A Raisin in the Sun" runs through March 8. Discounted tickets are available. For more information, visit www.trinityrep.com.

Return to top