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Monday, December 19, 2011

A Raisin In The Sun

Many of you don't know this, but I have been reading one play per week since the summer.  I see a good bit of theatre but realized this spring that I don't read enough plays, so I have been following one playwright at a time.  I started with August Wilson's Century Cycle, then moved on to the Wendy Wasserstein cannon, and followed this with Harold Pinter.  After the office fire, which destroyed the last of Pinter's plays I had not yet read, I discovered that I could rent A Raisin In The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry on my Kindle from the library.  Yessiree, that sounds right up my alley.  I rarely review plays, but it would be a crime to not express the love and thankfulness that this play was written and shared with us mere mortals.

It's the story of the Younger family in Chicago's South Side in the 1950's.  Living in a cramped two bedroom apartment with the shared bathroom in the hall, Lena lives with her daughter, Beneatha, who aspires to be a doctor; her son Walter Lee, who dreams of attaining riches through a liquor store; his wife Ruth and their son, Travis.  When the family receives a settlement of $10,000, Lena uses the money to put a down payment on a house for them--in a white neighborhood.

There are times that reading something so beautiful is not enough.  Feeling that my heart it taken from my chest and squeezed just tight enough to make me gasp for air--that's a mark of a stunning work of art.  I was halfway through this, considered a classic in the theatre, when it occurred to me that I may never be the same.  Mama's strength and her love for her children--even when they tear at her soul--is admirable and foolish at the same time.  Ruth's resolve is a killer, and at times you want to shake her awake.  Walter Lee's determination to provide for his family--that which eventually causes his downfall--is gut wrenching.  Lawd knows, we have all made similar mistakes.  Beneatha's youthful indignance is so relatable it's ridiculous, and 
at times it is painful. Oh, the follies of youth.

I closed this play both shattered and renewed, devastated yet hopeful.

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