Magazine article Variety

This 'Sun' Rises to the Occasion

Magazine article Variety

This 'Sun' Rises to the Occasion

Article excerpt

Denzel Washington's rabid fans won't be seeing their idol in director Kenny Leon's heart-stopping revival of Lorraine Hansberry's groundbreaking 1959 play, "A Raisin in the Sun." They'll be seeing Walter Lee Younger, the scion of a hard-working black family who sees his dreams of success slipping away on the post-WWII racial battlefront of Chicago's South Side. The performance is a personal triumph for Washington, who refrains from star-strutting to fold himself into a tight-knit ensemble of committed stage thesps who treat this revival like a labor of love.

A Raisin In the Sun

Ethel Barrymore Theater; 1058 seats; $149 top. Opened April 3.2014.

Director: Kenny Leon

Starring: Denzel Washington, Sophie Okonedo, Bryce Clyde Jenkins, Anika Noni Rose

"Raisin" made its way into the history books for good reason when it preemed on Broadway (in the same theater) more than 50 years ago. It was the first play by an African-American woman to be produced on the Rialto. And, as a work of sociologically astute drama, it presented a penetrating look into the lives of working-class black Americans at a time when this silent minority was beginning to ask for the hard-won rights and privileges it had been promised.

But it isn't the historical value of Hansberry's heartfelt family drama that is moving audiences to tears. It's sharing the hopes, dreams and heartaches of a multigenerational family struggling to hold itself together as the changing times are challenging all its traditional belief systems and core values.

When people think of "Raisin," what comes to mind is the dramatic scene in which Karl Lindner (in a precision-tooled perf from David Cromer), a weaselly emissary from a white neighborhood, appears at the Younger apartment to present the family with a hefty bribe not to move into the house they have just bought. This, in turn, sets up the searing scene at the end of the show, played with great passion by Washington, in which Walter Lee Younger finally mans up to resolve the family crisis.

But "Raisin" is about a lot more than race relations in 1950s Chicago. It's the very model of the modern well-made play, which means every piece in its jigsaw plot locks into its central theme - the survival of the African-American family. …

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