Lorraine Hansberry’s famed play, A Raisin in the Sun has been shining for almost sixty years since being declared the Best Play of 1959 by The New York Drama Critics’ Circle. A year ago a London production proved that the “power and craft of the writing make it today as moving as it was then,” The Guardian. Brigit Saint Brigit Theatre Company brings it anew into the light.
It tells of a 1950s black American family planning to buy a house in Chicago’s all-white Woodlawn neighborhood. Clearly the present residents don’t want them as neighbors, and that antagonism is the fulcrum around which family troubles turn. The family’s many internal tensions threaten to tear them apart instead of uniting them in a common cause.
Their struggle for identity and self-determination asks many questions. What it means be a man. A wife. A head of household. A feminist. A black American. “Entrenched attitudes about race make the challenges its characters face still relevant, to change the world, starting with themselves,” The Guardian also said.
The title comes from a poem by African-American poet Langston Hughes’ Harlem that part known as A Dream Deferred: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”
Hughes was a famed and successful writer. Lorraine Hansberry was not; this was her first play and her own family’s experience was the spur. The Hansberrys had struggled against segregation, challenging a law to keep them out of a Chicago neighborhood. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Hansberry house, one that they bought when Lorraine was seven years old, was given landmark status by the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Historical Landmarks Preservation in 2010.
“Never before,” commented James Baldwin, “has so much of the truth of black people’s lives been seen onstage.” The Guardian added that Hansberry still challenges us all.
A Raisin in the Sun is performed Sept. 7-Oct. 1. First Central Congregational Church, 421 South 36th Street. Thurs-Sat.: 7:30 p.m. Sun. 2 p.m. Tickets: $20-$25. www.bsbtheatre.com/