Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
William Russell Stark's expertly designed set of the Younger family's home feels fully lived in. This deeply gratifying production of A Raisin in the Sun at Downtown Cabaret Theatre .
Director Brian Crook can be praised for bringing out the best qualities in the play, as well as for coaxing such wonderful performances from his actors. In the central role of Walter Lee Younger, Jahi Kassa Taharqa is just about ideal, bringing forth a combination of the character's frustrations, joys and determination. Indeed, one is always able to see where Walter Lee fits in this family and the consequences of his actions, both good and bad. Following in the daunting footsteps of Sidney Poitier in the film version, Taharqa manages to make this character completely his own, with a mixture of drive and, ultimately, dignity.
Likewise, LaMarr Taylor is a terrific Lena Younger, the matriarch of the family, proving to be just as strong as she needs to be as Lena, as well as displaying a warmth and generosity of spirit. In Taylor's portrayal, Lena has clearly seen the best and the worst of life, but she is indomitable and always displays a distinct feeling of hope for both herself and her family.
As Ruth, Walter Lee's wife, Noel Ginyard gives a lovely and touching performance and she is perhaps the most centered presence in the show. MayTae Harge is quite funny and a bit outrageous as Beneatha, Walter Lee's sister, and one can't help but be won over by her personality and charm. Beneatha is always trying to explore her African roots, with the help of her Nigerian friend Joseph Asagai, played quite well by Garth West, as well as various other interests, though she remains solid in her determination to become a doctor. Finally, Ajibola "Keeme" Tajudeen is just perfect as Walter Lee and Ruth's young son, Travis (at certain performances, Sana "Prince" Sarr plays the role of Travis).
Avery Owens and Elijah Manning do well in supporting roles, and Eric Dino is unforgettable as Karl Lindner, the white man who tries to get in the way of the Younger family's pursuit of a better life.
As well as working splendidly with his actors, director Brian Cook is completely in tune with his designers. William Russell Stark's expertly designed set of the Younger family's home feels fully lived in; Jessica Camarero has provided period perfect costumes; and the contributions by lighting designer Phill Hill are ideal.
A Raisin in the Sun was first presented on Broadway in 1959 and its exploration of the difficulties between the races still seems (unfortunately) relevant today. The play will will always remain a benchmark work in the American theater and the beauty of Lorraine Hansberry's writing is just as fresh as ever. In a revival as astute and perceptive as the one at Downtown Cabaret Theatre, audiences can discover anew the wonders of this play.
A Raisin in the Sun, through February 18, 2018, at Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport CT. For tickets, please visit www.dtcab.com or call the box office at 203-576-1636.