Before opening night all tickets for the performances of "A Raisin in the Sun" at sold out and producers had to add another show.
It was worth it.
After 16 performances the show closed its curtains on July 10 and will no longer transport the audience, tucked away in the small black box theatre at the end of Pear Avenue, back into 1950s Chicago. There they had witnessed how the Younger family found itself on the cusp of the American dream–homeownership–and learned of the obstacles still in their way.
While the themes of Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 classic masterpiece can still resonate with a contemporary audience, the acting of the cast of 10–René Marquerite Banks, Alec F. Brown, Bezachin Jifar, Keith C. Marshall, Kendra Owens, Jennifer Perkins-Stephens, Michael Wayne Rice, William David Southall, Dimitri Woods, and Yhá Mourhia D. Wright–made it that much more accessible.
From the first to last scene, the magnetic performance of Perkins-Stephens drew the audience in to her intimate portrayal of Ruth Younger. In order of appearance next up Southall, 13, played the innocent and playful Travis–a great part for a great young actor–who amused and inspired many chuckles from the audience.
Wayne-Rice delivered an outstanding performance in his role as the conflicted Walter Lee Younger. Walter, married to Ruth and father to Travis, wants to do good by them but can't with his salary as a chauffeur. By the end of the third act, Wayne-Rice's body language, tone and clearly showed that Walter resolved many of his issues, endearing him to the spectators.
But the powerful performance of Kendra Owens as Lena Younger, the matriarch of the family, carefully wove the net that kept the family–and the cast–together. Owens voice, whether soft or assertive, evoked such sentiment that you felt her character's love and dreams she held for her family.
Of the principle characters, Wright was another scene-stealer. As the sassy, curious, progressive, rebellious college student and aspiring doctor, Beneatha Younger, she voiced the angst of the day's youth that sought to change the world while simultaneously finding themselves. Wright's love interests, the black bourgeois played by Alec F. Brown (George Murchison) and the African revolutionary portrayed by Bezachin Jifar (Joseph Asagai), couldn't be more opposite from one another. Brown and Jifar were very credible in their roles.
Though only in for one scene Banks, who played the nosy-neighbor, added much needed comic relief to a tense moment. Woods (Bobo) convincingly delivered bad news and Marshall (Karl Lindner) accomplished getting the audience to dislike him and his intentions immediately.
These actors as directed by Aldo Billingslea Sara Capule made Hansberry's characters believable and relatable. Their direction inside the one-room set still made it possible to experience the various inner worlds of the characters.
Even though the curtain has closed, hundreds of attendees will continue to remember the story of this family who's dream didn't shrivel up "like a raisin in the sun," as Langston Hughes described it. Perhaps, they'll even help others make their dreams come true too.