A Raisin in the Sun is not a new story. It's been around for a long time. I remember reading it in high school. And I'm sure those before me read it in high school as well. Back then, I don't remember it having the impact on me that it did when I saw it performed on stage last week. This story is powerful. Very powerful.
The play follows a week or so in the life of the Youngers, an African American family living on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s. As the play opens, the matriarch of the family (LaTanya Richardson Jackson) will be receiving a $10,000 life insurance check for the death of her husband. Mama's son, Walter Lee (Denzel Washington) and his wife Ruth (Sophie Okonedo) have different ideas about how the money could be best spent. Walter Lee is deadset on investing in a liquor store with his friends, and Ruth wants a fresh start in a new home to better their lives immediately. Mama's daughter, Beneatha (Anika Noni Rose) intends the money should be used for her medical schooling. Things get even more tense when Ruth reveals she is pregnant with their second child. After many words with everyone in the family, Mama makes her decision - buying a house in Clybourne Park, an entirely white neighborhood. As a result (along with the consequences of some unwise decisions by Walter Lee), more drama ensues leading up to the final decision of the family to go or to stay.
Powerful stuff...especially from roughly 10 rows from the stage!! I felt like I was a guest at the Younger home myself. And these actors and actresses were the absolute real deal! Each was phenomenal - particularly the ladies as proven by their Tony nominations. I was moved by the performance and so happy to see the warmth and genuine nature of each performer as the exited the stage door. The young man that performed as Travis (Walter Lee and Ruth's son) was the sweetest. So grateful and excited when he was speaking with the crowd and signing autographs. Everyone was very friendly and happy to have made an impact on those in attendance.
And then there was Denzel. Since I had already "met" him (read more here), I was mostly just observing and enjoying the atmosphere of the after show crowd. However, when Denzel came out he began shaking hands with people in the crowd. Woah! A handshake certainly confirms meeting someone. I was trying to get a good photo while he was on the opposite side when he turned around and headed straight for me. I froze for a moment, snapped a picture of the ground (mostly), and then quickly made my hand available for the shake. Unfortunately, I became speechless almost simultaneously so I'm not quite sure many words were exchanged, but we most assuredly have met now. The photo above is from a fellow stage door waiter who happily shared the somewhat blurry, but about as good as it gets photo with all of us. What a night!
A Raisin in the Sun has five Tony nominations.
Best Revival of a Play
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play (LaTanya Richardson Jackson)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Sophie Okonedo)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Anika Noni Rose)
Best Direction of a Play (Kenny Leon)