Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"A Raisin in the Sun"

Arena Stage's production of "A Raisin in the Sun" grabs one of the most powerful American Plays of the 20th century by both horns and never ever gives the bull a chance to escape the grip of this "Take-No-Prisoners" cast.  I have seen many classics of the American theater in the past two years performed around the DMV.  Plays by Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Lillian Hellmann, and Edward Albee--and Loraine Hansberry stands as tall as any in this august group and taller than most with her amazing play.  The works demands the most of those who take it on, and this cast was up to the challenge. 
 The matriarch, Lena Younger, was played with a blindly combination of rage and tenderness by Lizan Mitchell.  And every bit her equal was Will Cobbs as her son, Walter Lee Younger.  Will brought to the role not only an intensity of understanding, but also a physicality that was as vulnerable as it was strong.  Joy Jones in the role of Lena's daughter was likewise mesmerizing in her assertiveness and her innocence.  It's this juxtaposition of natures that Hansberry was so damned good at writing, and this cast seemed to truly embrace.  And there is one more actor who really surprised me.  I've seen Dawn Ursula now in four other productions in the past year and I thought I had a pretty good notion of who she is as an actor.  For the first 45 minutes or so, I had no reason to doubt my assumptions, and then suddenly against the interplay of the other actors, she became something much more than I would have expected.  I can't help but think that in the midst of such incredible writing, and in the company of such incredible fellow thespians, she found in herself something deeper, something new, something transcendent.  As to the remaining cast members?  Not a sour note in the score.  The set was fine.  It gave the cast what they needed to navigate the story.  The lighting and sound likewise.  Same for the costumes.  All of the other "stuff" was so well assembled that you needn't let it get in the way of the story and the acting. 
Dawn Ursula as Ruth Younger with Will Cobbs and Walter Lee Younger
Lena Younger (Lizan Mitchell) and her daughter Beneatha Younger (Joy Jones)
Walter Lee Younger (Will Cobbs) giving a life lesson to his son, Travis (Jeremiah Hasty)
Bueka Uwemedimo as Joseph Asagai and Joy Jones as Beneatha Younger
Will Cobbs (Walter Lee Younger) and Lizan Mitchell (Lena Younger)
Lizan Mitchell as Lena Younger with her plant of hope.


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