A RAISIN IN THE SUN (Bristol Riverside): An old fashioned play, carefully executed

Lorraine Hansberry wrote Raisin in the Sun in 1959, a bold play for its time. It takes a dark view of the progress of integration, or lack thereof. Going beyond the messages, it’s a warm and wonderfully entertaining play with well-drawn characters, with their troubles and their sharp and funny banter.

In the Bristol Riverside Theatre lobby interesting and useful information is posted on the wall.  For instance, the title comes from a line in “Harlem,” a Langston Hughes poem. “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a Raisin in the Sun?” And we learn that Martin Luther King wrote of Lorraine Hansberry, “Her creative ability and her profound grasp of the deep social issues confronting the world today will remain an inspiration to generations yet unborn.” On March 11, 1959, it became the first Broadway play written and produced by an African American woman. A Raisin in the Sun is an old fashioned kind of play. And it is complex. 

The poor Black Younger family lives in a small cramped apartment. There’s Mama, and Walter the grown son. his wife Ruth, and their little boy Travis, and Mama’s interesting daughter, Beneatha, who wants to be a doctor. At one point Beneatha, talking about her suitor’s family, says, “Oh, Mama- The Murchisons are honest-to-God-real-live-rich colored people, and the only people in the world who are more snobbish than rich white people are rich colored people.” Mama abides and consoles herself with a cute scrawny little potted plant. Walter worries that he doesn’t provide adequately for the family. He feels that his job as a chauffeur is subservient. Desperate to get a good job and a new family home, he wants to start a liquor store. When Mama, who has come into some life insurance money from her deceased husband, refuses to invest in her son’s  liquor store idea. Walter retorts, “Well, you tell that to my boy tonight when you put him to sleep on the living-room couch…Yeah-and tell it to my wife, Mama, tomorrow when she has to go out of here to look after somebody else’s kids. And tell it to me, Mama, every time we need a new pair of curtains and I have to watch you go out and work in somebody’s kitchen.”  And Walter who has had big problems with a friend says: “It’s all divided up. Life is. Sure enough. Between the takers and the “tooken.”

Mr. Linder, a white man, comes over to the Younger apartment and attempts to appear helpful. A spokesman for the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, he says that if the family  will abandon their plans to move into his neighborhood, the Association will pay the family more than their down payment. “I am sure you people must be aware of some of the incidents which have happened in various parts of the city when colored people have moved into the area.”  Mr. Linder continues, “Racial prejudice simply doesn’t enter into it.” That didn’t go over too well.

The stage set is carefully thought out, carefully executed, and right on the money. And these actors were not grabbed off the street and shoved into costume. They’ve had a lot of stage time behind them. Their consummate performance is directed by the amazing Lisa Stum. One star in the cast is Mama’s barely surviving little plant that sits at the window. It is her joy. Her son calls it a “raggedy-looking old thing.” The audience loved the plant.

A Raisin in the Sun is a long play, but definitely worth the considerable drive from Philadelphia out to Bristol. (And a very nice restaurant & bar, George II, is on the same block).

[Bristol Riverside Theatre, 120 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, PA] January 30-February 18, 2024; brtstage.org

The Cast: Tamara Anderson, Peter Bisgaier, Eric Carter, Brittany Davis, Walter DeShields, Martine Fleurisma, Patricia Floyd, Aasim Iqbal, Dayo Olatokun, Brandon Pierce

Designers:Jason Simms (Scenic Designer), Jahise LeBouef (Costume Designer), Cameroon Filepas (Lighting Designer), Michael Keck (Sound Designer) Composer, Michael Keck

Managers: Jeremy J. Phillips, Amy Massari, Charlie Mooz; Dramaturg Tamara Anderson 

Approximately 3 hours with one intermission


2 Replies to “A RAISIN IN THE SUN (Bristol Riverside): An old fashioned play, carefully executed”
  1. Hello! I noticed that there is a mis-credit in this post.

    Jason Simms (Scenic Designer)
    Jahise LeBouef (Costume Designer)
    Cameroon Filepas (Lighting Designer)
    Michael Keck (Sound Designer)

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