Denzel Washington is a revelation. A true star. A team player. A natural to portray Walter Lee Younger in this revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play – A RAISIN IN THE SUN that is a tribute to Ms. Hansberry’s talent and spirit.
It is beautifully directed by the gifted Kenny Leon who has assembled a couldn’t-be-better ensemble at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre through June 15th. So you had better get your tickets now to see one of the finest plays this season on Broadway with performances to match from everyone involved. Everything is just right.
Some say that Mr. Washington is a bit old to portray the downtrodden chauffeur who has big dreams for himself and his family in Chicago’s South Side – “sometime between World War II and 1960”. I say it doesn’t matter one bit. Mr. Washington believes he is Walter and he is Walter. And more importantly we believe that he is Walter.
His stirring second act speech where he “performs” it for his family before Karl Linder (David Cromer) arrives (the man who represents Clybourne Park – a white community where Walter’s mom has put down a deposit with a part of the life insurance money from her husband’s death – $10,000 – for their new home – a home where they can all live comfortably and she can have a small garden) to pay them NOT to move in thereby avoiding any racial problems is tantamount to an eleven o’clock number in a musical and Mr. Washington tears down the house and rips our hearts apart with its delivery and what immediately follows.
But it is not just Mr. Denzel Washington center stage here. It is generously shared with the other actors who give exceptional performances.
His mom – strong and common sense wise Lena Younger (Latanya Richardson Jackson), Ruth Younger his weary wife (Sophie Okonedo) who loves him despite his sometimes gruff behavior towards her, their son Travis (Bryce Clyde Jenkins), his younger sister Beneatha (Anika Noni Rose) who dreams of becoming a doctor and has difficulty choosing between beaus – the rich but shallow George Murchison (Jason Dirden) and the idealistic Joseph Asagai from Nigeria (Sean Patrick Thomas) who helps her to re-assimilate back to her roots.
With a just right jazz score that transitions the scenes, on a detailed and naturalistic set by Mark Thompson, Lorraine Hansberry’s spectacular, funny, smart, tragic, uplifting, surprising, exhilarating, uncompromising, compassionate, amazing and ageless play unfolds.
See it. No late seating. And they mean it. Be on time. Be there.
One more thing. I thank each and every actor for being able to hear every single beautiful word that they utter on stage in A RAISIN IN THE SUN. Everything is just right.
Photos: Bridgette Lacombe
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