'A Raisin in the Sun' shines brightly at Dramaworks

Review

'A Raisin in the Sun' shines brightly at Dramaworks

Feb 5 2013
Christine Dolen | Miami Herald

...Its story of a black working-class Chicago family facing life-changing decisions drew black and white theatergoers, audiences who were deeply moved by Hansberry's provocative, insightful play. A Raisin in the Sun was – and still is – one powerful drama. Palm Beach Dramaworks has just opened its new production of Hansberry's play, one that underscores the drama's edge-of-your-seat timelessness. Staged by guest director Seret Scott, the show features a seamlessly blended cast of South Florida performers and other regional theater veterans, actors whose unifying quality is excellence. Anyone who loves a great production of a well-made play should seek it out. ...A Raisin in the Sun, whose title comes from the Langston Hughes poem Harlem, tells the story of the Younger family. Matriarch Lena (Pat Bowie), her son Walter Lee (Ethan Henry) and his wife Ruth (Shirine Babb), their son Travis (Mekiel Benjamin, alternating with Joshua Valbrun) and Walter's college-student sister Beneatha (Joniece Abbott Pratt) live together in a rundown but tidy two-bedroom apartment on Chicago's south side. Their home (by designer Paul Tate dePoo III) is so small that Travis has to sleep on the loveseat-sized sofa, and the Youngers have to race their neighbors to a communal bathroom... ...Bowie and Henry are superb as a mother and son at odds, two people bound by love but certain their way is the best. Each delineates and illuminates the journey Lena and Walter Lee take, Bowie's Lena coming to understand that some of her actions have mirrored what a crushing society has done to her son, Henry's tormented Walter Lee finally stepping up for his family. Babb's stoic Ruth and Pratt's free-spirited Beneatha are a study in contrasts, as are Jordan Tisdale's George and Marckenson Charles' Joseph Asagai. Both men are courting Beneatha, but while George represents wealth and assimilation, Asagai is a wise young African man with dreams for his country – and for a future with the aspiring American doctor. The Dramaworks production is beautifully designed, from the set with its faded floral wallpaper to Brian O'Keefe's just-right '50s costumes, Joseph P. Oshry's lighting and Richard Szczublewski's sound design, which ties together scenes with jazz that seems to warn of conflicts to come.