Hansberry's (1930-65) landmark play tells the story of the Youngers, an African American family living in a run-down apartment in Chicago, who are about to inherit $10,000 from an insurance policy following the death of the family patriarch. As their dreams clash, the family's hopes for a better life threaten to dry up like "a raisin in the sun." Over 50 years after the play debuted, its words continue to resonate as unemployment, inflation, identity theft, and corrupt mortgage brokers have shattered the dreams of many. In this production starring Rutina Wesley of HBO's True Blood and a full cast, the individual performances--e.g., that by Judyann Elder, who plays Lena (Mama)--are exceptional, but the dynamic of the cast as a whole is lacking. Lines are sometimes shouted and overacted, as if the actors are more concerned with voice projection than the content and context of their roles. Overall, a decent production of a groundbreaking play but with room for improvement. An alternate full-cast recording of this play, starring Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, is available from Recorded Books. [See Audio NewsBriefs, LJ 2/1/11.--Ed.]--Valerie Piechocki, Prince George's Cty. Memorial Lib., Largo, MD[Page 51]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr 9 Up--This live, full-cast performance of Lorraine Hansberry's classic 1958 play tells the story of a working class African-American family living in a small apartment on Chicago's Southside. The matriarchal Lena "Mama" Younger awaits the arrival of her deceased husband's $10,000 life insurance check. Her son, Walter, maneuvers to invest in a liquor store, while her daughter, Bennie, hopes to attend medical school with the money. Meanwhile, Walter's wife struggles to decide whether to terminate an unplanned pregnancy when they're already struggling to support their firstborn. When Mama makes a down payment on a house in a white section of the city, the neighborhood association offers to buy them out. The family balks until Walter loses the balance of the money in a fraudulent business deal. Then they must weigh dreams against reality. This is a stirring performance of Hansberry's take on the American Dream deferred, which was inspired by Langston Hughes's 1951 poem "Harlem." Every actor digs into his or her character with verve, and audience reactions highlight the subtle humor. Characters are frequently addressed by name, and each actor's voice is distinct enough for listeners to easily identify the speaker. As Bennie, Rutina Wesley of HBO's True Blood adds some star power, but Judyann Elder as Mama is the heart and soul of this production. Her character is alternately maternal and tart, feisty and vulnerable. A commanding presentation of a seminal drama that feels timelier than ever.--Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA[Page 62]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.