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Dreams Deferred Take Center Stage in A Raisin in the Sun

Lorraine Hansberry's classic tale of familial bonds, tested by a skewed society, moves into A Noise Within.

Ben Cain (Walter Lee) and Toya Turner (Ruth Younger) in a scene from A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Gregg T. Daniel, at A Noise Within.
(© Craig Schwartz)

Progress treads so slowly it almost feels backwards. Lorraine Hansberry's award-winning play A Raisin in the Sun premiered almost six decades ago, but American culture still grapples heavily with racism and other prejudices. The Younger family of the play grabs at the American dream, but society keeps moving the brass ring just out of reach. This play about unbreakable spirit has been granted a solid production at A Noise Within that cherishes the characters but allows the audiences to understand them, faults and all.

Walter Younger Sr. has passed away and left his family a $10,000 insurance policy. Son Walter Lee (Ben Cain) has big ideas for spending the money — a liquor store that he will own. Sister Beneatha (Sarah Hollis) wants the financial strains of her college tuition to evaporate. But Lena (Saundra McClain), the family matriarch, has the final word, and she wants to move her family out of their tiny apartment into a house in the suburbs, where her impressionable grandson (Sam Christian) can play in a yard. The arguments intensify, but outside drama forces the family to stand tall together.

The exquisite cast shows each of their characters' faults while still maintaining their faith. As the restless Walter Lee, Cain portrays a noncommunicative, easily aggravated man-child who wants to be a leader but makes rash decisions. Cain's eyes burn when arguing with his stage family and are almost blank when Walter Lee has checked out from their pleas. Toya Turner, as Walter Lee's wife, Ruth, draws the audience to her as a woman always working for her family's betterment. Whether she is cooking, doing laundry, or packing, it is always with steel resolve. She is a woman one does not cross.

As the progressive thinker Beneatha, Hollis has a free-spirited essence filled with ambition and a thirst for knowledge. As Beneatha's two suitors, Amir Abdullah and Keith Walker illustrate two sides of her future: a husband who can open new worlds to her, or one who can offer wealth and comfort but will see her only as an accessory. As the earth mother, McClain brings the cast together, just as her character does for the family. Her warm, moral presence can be felt even after she has left the stage.

Gregg T. Daniel's production mixes joy and aggravation in a way that only family can. The house, designed by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, feels cagelike, with family members sleeping in every corner. Garry Lennon's costumes fit the era and economic restraint of the characters. One outfit, an African dress, a gift for Beneatha, has beautiful colors and patterns that appropriately stand out from the other costumes and the set.

An American masterpiece, A Raisin in the Sun is about reaching for the stars when you're still trapped in the basement. Espousing forgiveness of your loved ones and a belief that anyone can grow no matter the obstacles, this story remains empowering and is beautifully told at A Noise Within.