A rainbow of emotions color the Lakewood Playhouse production of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” Hansberry tells the story of an extended black family whose strong matriarch, Lena, is determined to better their lot with her deceased husband’s insurance money. Her dream is a real home for the whole family.
It is also a rights of passage tale of Walter Lee, her ne’er-do-well son who has his own ideas of how the windfall should be used. His dream is of equality through wealth by way of a more than slightly shady venture with disreputable friends.
His wife Ruth dreams of a better life for their young son Travis; the boy dreams of driving a bus.
Interwoven is the plight of Lena’s daughter, Beneatha, a rebellious youth seeking her own meaning of life through her African roots. She dares to dream of being a doctor in a time when, to quote her brother, “if you like sick people so much, why can’t you be a nurse like other women?”
We are transported to Chicago during the 50s & before Martin Luther King’s courageous civil rights movement. Erin Chanfrau’s claustrophobic set captures the sense of a typical walk-up flat of the times.
Eva Abram plays Lena with quiet strength.
By sharp contrast, she is juxtaposed by Lance McQueen as Walter Lee. McQueen brings every hue of emotion into play. He is dynamic, childlike, loving, hateful, fearful, lost and, finally, fulfilled.
Sarita Williams is Ruth. She projects her pain and fatigue with vocal and physical eloquence.
Ijeoma Okpala is exuberant as sister Beneatha. She dances and drags about the stage with chameleon-like mood and character changes.
Izaic York is charmingly innocent as the young son. Frank Reed and Ekello Harrid, Jr. are Asagai and George, two of Beneatha’s suitors. Jackie D. House is Bobo, one of those disreputable friends. Patrick C. Schroeder is Linder, the unlikely villain. All do admirable jobs with their roles, some of which are quite small but all-important to the development of the story.
Director Frederick Charles Canada has created the mood and movement which makes this a powerful theatre experience.
It is a play about the bigotry of that era. However, it could be about any family living in close quarters trying to “get out.” In reality, there is no difference between people just because there skin is a different color. What this play is actually about is the reaction of “other people” with small minds, fearful of change when their territorial fence is about to be breeched by someone “different.”
Each character has his own dream. Each dream is an echo of the thoughts of the man who had the grand dream that, “- children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Come over the rainbow to the Lakewood Playhouse and follow that dream.
“A Raisin in the Sun” plays each Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the month of February. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m.; Sundays are at 2 p.m. There is a special Pay-What-You-Can performance scheduled for Feb. 9.
For reservations or more information, call the theatre at (253) 588-0042.
The Lakewood Playhouse is located in the northeast section of the Lakewood Towne Center, next to the Pierce Transit terminal.
by Lynn Geyer