A Raisin in the Sun is set in the 1950s US in an overcrowded apartment in Chicago’s Southside. It’s based around the five members of the tight-knit black Younger family.
The play made a huge impact when it was written by Lorraine Hansberry in 1959.
The Eclipse Theatre company’s revival is a powerful take on Hansberry’s drama. It shows racism blighting the Youngers’ lives—and black people standing up to it.
Angela Wynter gives a convincing performance as the mother Lena Younger, as does Susan Wokoma as her student daughter Beneatha.
It begins with Lena waiting for a $10,000 insurance cheque after her late husband’s death.
Beneatha aspires to be a doctor and her brother Walter wants to be a businessman.
But Walter’s ambition clashes with his mother’s dream of buying a new family home, because both depend on the insurance cheque.
The tension ratchets up when Lena puts a deposit on a house in Clybourne Park, an all-white area.
A white representative from the Clybourne Park Improvement Association tries to persuade the family not to move in by using bribery and racist threats.
Lena gives Walter control of the rest of the money, while telling him what she wants him to do with it. The resulting tensions threaten to rip the family apart.
Political ideas also fizz through the play. Beneatha is inspired by her African heritage and African liberation struggles, and wrestles with ideas of identity.
She cuts off what her Nigerian boyfriend Asagai calls her “mutilated hair” to leave it close-cropped and unstraightened.
Beneatha resists what she calls the “dominant” and “oppressive culture” of White America. And she challenges the sexism of the men around her.
The title comes from Langston Hughes’ poem A Dream Deferred.
He asks, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or does it explode?”
All the adult Youngers dream of a better life for the family.
This production brings out how their struggles to achieve those dreams clash with the exploitation and racism of US society.