Kirk Douglas "A Raisin in the Sun" Review - Riveting and Masterful

(L to R) Deidrie Henry as Ruth, Kevin T. Carroll as Walter Lee, Kim Staunton as Lena, Kenya Alexander as Beneatha and Brandon David Brown as Travis

Kirk Douglas Theatre’s  production of  Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Phylicia Rashad, is a wonderful, masterful theatrical event not to be missed!

Georja: When you have a piece such as Raisin, you can see why it is a classic – the depth of character and the sociological portrait of a time. Oh yes, then there are the spiritual and human values played out before our eyes. This is what theater is all about. And in this case, you leave the theater with your head held high, knowing that the triumph of spirit of these characters is a potential in us all.

Gerald: Raisin has been incredibly popular for decades, having been made into three films, a musical, and with countless stage performances, including a Broadway revival. This is razor-tongued verbal mayhem, fast-paced and tightly cued, reminiscent of the edgy family and working-class political dramas of Clifford Odets during the Great Depression.

Walter and Ruth's marriage seems to falter as their money woes increase



Georja: Raisin is set in Chicago in the early '50s and centers on a black family of meager means, the Youngers, who are in the process of inheriting a $10,000 life insurance benefit due to the death of grandfather Walter. The money goes to his wife, Lena (Kim Staunton), the matriarch. Her dream is to buy a house, but other family members have strong hopes and dreams revolving around the spending of the windfall. Her son Walter Lee (Kevin T. Carroll) wants to invest in a business, and her daughter Beneatha (Kenya Alexander) wants to go to medical school.

Beneatha might just run away with the young Nigerian, played by Amad Jackson



Gerald: Historically, this postwar period was an economic boom, but many people got left behind. Still others got ahead only after struggle and grief, breaking out of the ghetto only to find new and different barriers of prejudice and discrimination. The desperate sense of economic hardship seems sharply relevant today. There are the familiar notions here that a sudden windfall could solve everything, and that a single bad investment could totally wipe you out. (In the early 1940s, Hansberry's own family was involved in a lawsuit in Chicago involving housing discrimination.)

Walter approves of George's money but is jealous of this dandy college boy



Georja: Phylicia Rashad is an accomplished, award winning theater actress, best remembered for her role as the lovable wife of Bill on The Cosby Show. She has put all her many talents into the casting and directing of this production. The performances were very well modulated. There are no weak links in the ensemble, and every one of them excelled and brought a rich life to their characters.

Gerald: When Raisin was revived on Broadway in 2004, Rashad played the Lena  role, and that experience informs her masterful direction this time around.

Scott Mosenson is Linder, who comes to deal with Walter



Georja: Kim Staunton rules as the wise and engaging grandmother Lena Younger. Kevin T. Carroll hits it out of the park with his riveting portrayal of the mercurial Walter Lee. His powerful performance is worth the price of admission. Brandon David Brown is adorable as his young son Travis, and Diedrie Henry does not miss a beat as the dutiful and pregnant wife Ruth. Kenya Alexandra is a sassy and saucy Beneatha, who is fun to watch, and her two beaux are very well drawn by Amad Jackson as Joseph Asagai, a very inspirational Nigerian admirer, and Jason Dirden as George, her more uptight conservative boyfriend.  These roles would be easy to become stereotypes, but the actors made them their own and let their own souls come through. Scott Mosenson had the unlikeable role of Mr. Karl Linder, the bringer of bad news and racism to the family, and he managed to pull it off with grace and humor while not going over the top.

Bobo, played by Ellis E. Williams, gets involved in a deal with Walter Lee



Gerald: Carroll's performance in particular was very rich. His character's range of actions and emotions go from despicable to admirable, and he has your attention through it all, without ever completely losing your sympathy. And Mosenson would make a fine mortician - I mean that in the best way! And Ellis E. Williams is a soulful and solid, but hardly solvent, friend to Walter Lee, as the sorrowful Bobo. Brandon David Brown, who played young Travis, is a trouper in the making!

Travis is the apple of Lena's eye



Georja: The themes are familiar and have been explored in many works: the difficulties of African-Americans to fulfill themselves as minorities in our society. The play takes place sixty years ago, and yet unfortunately today there are still many instances of the same old problems and prejudices affecting peoples’ lives. Like other great classic works it shows that what is old is still relevant today. The Center Theatre Group is simultaneously producing the Pulitzer-prize winning play Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris at the Mark Taper Forum, a play which takes place fifty years after A Raisin in the Sun and continues the conversation. The audience is strongly encouraged to see both (Raisin, first, if possible), and we are looking forward to doing just that.

Gerald: This play hits home, and it's not just about race. These days, even if you're coping financially, lots of people are anxious and insecure. We're all raisins afraid we could shrivel in the sun.

Georja: If you are a theater lover, you must go to see Raisin, and if you don’t see much theater, this is one to check out.

Photos by Craig Schwartz

Georja Umano is an actress/comedienne and animal advocate. Gerald Everett Jones is the author of the Rollo Hempill series of comic novels.

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

January 19 - February 19, 2012 (Tuesday - Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2 and 8pm, Sunday at 1 and 6:30pm, no performance Mondays)

THE KIRK DOUGLAS THEATRE

9820 Washington Bl.

Culver City, CA 90232

www.centertheatregroup.org

(213) 628 2772 (Audience Services)

In-person sales are available at CTG Music Center downtown, as well as at Kirk Douglas box office 2 hours prior to performances.

Ticket prices $20 - 50 (Ticket prices are subject to change.) 

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