Oscar- and Tony-winning actor Denzel Washington returns to Broadway in a new production of Lorraine Hansberry's classic 1959 drama "A Raisin in the Sun." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
Every rare while, a great play is given the production it deserves. That's how it is with this revival of "A Raisin In The Sun". Director Kenny Leon tackled the drama 10 years ago with Sean Combs in the lead, but what a difference a star makes. And because the 55-year-old work remains astonishingly relevant today, I can happily say Denzel and company are "da bomb."
Lorraine Hansberry's classic focuses on three generations of the Younger family living together in a cramped Chicago tenement: matriarch Lena, daughter Beneatha, son Walter Lee, his wife Ruth and their young son Travis. In a microcosm, this is Hansberry's America: under-privileged, over-worked and infected with soul-crushing poverty. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
The brilliance of the play is the way that Hansberry was able to take on so many big issues - civil rights and prejudice, feminism, black American culture and gender politics - all rivetingly explored through a tiny lens sharply focused on this one family. It's a delicate balance that wasn't entirely achieved in Leon's last production, but he sure got it right this time.
The crisp dialogue has the ring of honest-to-god truth. Even the humor is completely natural, and this phenomenal ensemble inhabits the characters as if born to the roles.
Sophie Okonedo, a British actress, Latanya Richardson Jackson, and Anika Noni Rose shatter any hint of stereotypes. And movie star Denzel Washington clearly has theatre in his blood. In voice, body and spirit, he channels the struggles of every black man who's ever known the misery of a dream deferred.
In 1959, such individuals were completely novel in the theatre. Today, they're all too familiar. Yet this beautifully nuanced production offers a fresh re-discovery of Hansberry's beleaguered characters, and they're likely to stay with you long after the curtain comes down.