Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Like President Obama and the First Lady, I scored tickets to the new production of A Raisin in the Sun at the Barrymore Theater.  I have to say, this is the best cast I've seen since the long ago movie version (which made cuts in the script). It would be hard to top, or even rival, a production that included Ruby Dee, Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeil and Diana Sands, with early and memorable appearances by Ivan Dixon and Lou Gossett.

This revival was to have featured Diahann Carroll, and I'd been curious to see how she'd play the role. But when Carroll dropped out of the show well before opening, she was replaced by Latanya Richardson Jackson, who turned out to be an inspired choice.  Given Denzel Washington's age, they had to make some adjustment, and so Walter Lee Younger is here 40, as opposed to Sidney Poitier's 30 -- which in turn would seem to make Beneatha (here played by Anika Noni Rose) either much younger than her brother, Walter Lee Younger, or a wonderful late bloomer. But once things are under way, nobody in the audience is thinking about the age of anyone in the cast. Sophie Okonedo plays Walter Lee's wife.

One touch I much appreciated at the Barrymore was that a recording was played in the time before the curtain of a late interview with Lorraine Hansberry. I dare say that most in the theater that evening had never heard Hansberry's voice. It was powerfully moving to hear that voice again, and it's an intriguing interview.

The play runs through June 15 -- Forget about the Puffy version of some years ago -- (and how many even remember the American Playhouse broadcast in 1989, with a cast that included Danny Glover and Esther Rolle?) -- This is the one to see -- 

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