An American dream of poignancy, warmth

Arundel college tackles `A Raisin in the Sun'

Howard Live

April 24, 2003|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Director Barbara Marder, chairwoman of the Performing Arts Department at Anne Arundel Community College, has gathered a first-rate cast for Moonlight Troupers' production of Lorraine Hansberry's powerful drama A Raisin in the Sun at Pascal Center for Performing Arts.

Groundbreaking when it opened on Broadway in 1959, Hansberry's classic American play traces the journey of five black family members as they pursue the American dream.

Only 29 when Raisin made its debut on Broadway, Hansberry enjoyed a brilliant career that was cut short six years later, in 1965, when she died of cancer. Hansberry's genius illuminates her lyrical portrayal of this hard-working family, each revealed through loving interactions.

Living in a cramped apartment on Chicago's South Side, they await recently widowed matriarch Lena Younger's $10,000 life insurance check. Lena wants to buy a house with a garden in the suburbs. Her daughter-in-law Ruth shares that goal, hoping that her son, Travis, and his unborn sibling will have their own space.

Lena's 35-year-old son, Walter Jr., wants to trade his chauffeur's job for a partnership in a liquor store that will provide enough money for his family to have a better life. His college student sister, Beneatha, wants to use some of the money for medical school.

Strongly nurturing Lena is a deeply religious woman of great dignity and simple desires who has almost within her grasp a new home to provide a better life for her family when she realizes that, for his own self-esteem, her son must have a say about the insurance money.

Beneatha pursues her education and seeks her identity that includes pride in her African heritage. Impatient with her mother's old-fashioned ways and with her brother's obsession with money, Beneatha reflects a feminist perspective without stridency. She displays affection and humor in her bantering with her brother Walter.

Having little education, Walter suggests that Beneatha should settle down with her wealthy suitor, George Murchison, and forget about native African Joseph Assagai.

As Lena, gifted actress and educator Vivian Gist Spencer all but owns the leading role in a charismatic performance conveying emotions ranging from warm devotion to her family to unleashed torrents of pent-up anger. At times, Spencer seems like a classic Greek tragedian in a housedress.

The central figure of Walter is brilliantly played by David "King" Hinton, delivering a moving, passionate portrayal of this frustrated man, who continues to dream. In a particularly joyous scene, Hinton's Walter breaks into a loose-jointed rhythmic parody of his sister's African dance. Deeply attuned to the rich cadence of Hansberry's dialogue, Hinton turns it into classic poetry with a distinctive all-American jazz beat.

As Beneatha, Anne Arundel Community College student Ramica Creek delivers a compelling portrait of a sharp, ambitious young woman who knows what she wants but retains a genuine warmth.

Jakema Jackson, a trained dancer who is set to start AACC's physician assistant program this summer, gives a convincing portrayal of Walter's wife who takes in ironing to help with family finances.

All other supporting players offer top-notch performances.

"A Raisin in the Sun" continues with a 7:30 performance tonight, 8 p.m. shows tomorrow and Saturday, and a 2 p.m. performance Sunday. Reservations: 410-777-2457.

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