(L-R) Saundra McClain and Toya Turner in A "Raisin in the Sun" at A Noise Within (Photo - Craig Schwartz).

      (L-R) Saundra McClain and Toya Turner in A “Raisin in the Sun” at A Noise Within (Photo – Craig Schwartz).

      As expected from the folks at A Noise Within, another excellent, full-bodied production of a classic.

      By Carol Edger Germain

      “A Raisin in the Sun,” written by Lorraine Hansberry, was first performed on Broadway in 1959. It marked a significant milestone in theater, as she won the New York Critics’ Circle Award, the second oldest theater award in the US, and was the first African American and the youngest playwright (29) to do so (as well as being only the 5th woman to win the award). Unfortunately, she died just 6 years later, so we are lucky to have this gem and a couple others from her, but I can’t help but wonder what other engaging, socially relevant, and entertaining works she might have gifted to us. The title of the play was taken from the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” Her family was deeply involved in fighting housing discrimination in Chicago, so she had personal experience to draw from when writing this drama.

      Three generations of the Younger family are sharing a cramped tenement apartment in segregated Chicago in the 1950’s (kudos to scenic designer Stephanie Kerley Schwartz and costume designer Garry Lennon), tripping over each other as they all do what they must do to contribute to the family, monetarily and emotionally, with love, sibling rivalry, and ambition. Mama (Lena – played by Saundra McClain) is due to receive a $10,000 insurance payout due to the death of her husband, and everyone seems to know the best way to spend it. Mama wants to move to a better neighborhood, son Walter thinks a large portion should be invested in his dream of moving up from being a chauffeur to owning a liquor store (which doesn’t sit well with Mama), daughter Beneatha (Sarah Hollis) wants to go to medical school (even though Walter condescendingly comments “Who the hell told you you had to be a doctor? If you so crazy ’bout messing ’round with sick people – then go be a nurse like other women – or just get married and be quiet.”).


      Beneatha is the most fluid character, even though she is focused on her lofty goal, as she espouses her fervent interest in civil rights, explores her interest in her African heritage, including striking a romance with a Nigerian (Amir Abdullah) who wants to take her to his home country. Although she doesn’t make that commitment to him, her scenes where her interest in African dress and dance are on display are colorful and fun. Daughter-in-law Ruth (a powerful Toya Turner) is the gale force wind in the family, working outside the home as everyone else but taking on the role of getting everyone in the home organized and moving, constantly moving herself as she cooks, cleans, irons and gets all out of the apartment on time to be where they need to be. Mama tries to remain strong as she struggles to keep the family together and tries to divvy up the money fairly so that all can realize their dreams. The options evolve as Mama reevaluates the distribution, social issues of the time raise their ugly oppressive realities as the family attempts to move into a white neighborhood, and other factors both in and out of the control of the family members evolve until the money finally serves its purpose, some good and some bad results are experienced, or endured, by the family and the audience is rooting for these characters who have enriched their theater experience.

      Three weekends left, highly recommended!

      Ben Cain and Sam Christian in "A Raisin in the Sun" (Photo - Craig Schwartz).

      Ben Cain and Sam Christian in “A Raisin in the Sun” (Photo – Craig Schwartz).

      A Raisin in the Sun
      • Walter Lee Younger: Ben Cain*
      Ruth Younger: Toya Turner*
      Joseph Asagai: Amir Abdullah*
      Bobo/Moving Man: Rosney Mauger
      Karl Lindner: Bert Emmett*
      George Murchison: Keith Walker
      Lena Younger: Saundra McClain*
      Beneatha Younger: Sarah Hollis*
      Travis Younger: Sam Christian
      • Director: Gregg T. Daniel
      Scenic Design: Stephanie Kerley Schwartz
      Costume Design: Garry Lennon
      Wig/Make-Up Design: April Metcalf
      A Noise Within
      3352 E. Foothill, Pasadena, CA 91107

      • Sunday, March 25 at 2 and 7pm (Conversations after 2pm; Sunday Rush at 7pm)
      Thursday, March 29 at 7:30 pm
      Friday, March 30 at 8pm (Conversations)
      Saturday, March 31 at 2 and 8pm
      Saturday, April 7 at 2 and 8pm
      Sunday, April 8 at 2pm and 7pm (Sunday Rush 7pm)
      • Free parking.
      • General admission: $25 – $84 (discount tickets for some dates available @ goldstar.com)
      Purchase here.

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