With a beautifully written script by Lorraine Hansberry and a talented cast, Cosumnes River College Theatre Department was able to bring “A Raisin in the Sun” to life.
“A Raisin in the Sun” follows an ordinary black family in the 1950s that is allocated $10,000 from a life insurance check after the husband and father of the family has passed. Each member of the family has different aspirations for the money, so their ideas for how the money will be best spent clash. Mama (played by Lenora Collins) wants to invest the money into a house, Walter Lee Younger (played by Marshall Bailey) wants to invest the money into owning a liquor store and Beneatha Young (played by Johanna Pugh) would like to use the money to help pay for her tuition to become a doctor. As the play progresses, we learn more about these characters from their dreams, their personalities and their ways of life.
From beginning to end, the acting within the show was on point. The actors were able to transition into their scenes with ease and were able to balance out the moments that were serious, funny and at times emotional.
The greatest attributes of the show relied on the actors’ ability to portray their characters in a way that felt authentic and relatable. This helped to engage the audience with the characters and evoke an emotional response within different scenes throughout the show.
In one scene, Beneatha has changed her hairstyle to a more traditional and natural look, as she tries to strip herself away from American assimilation and claim her African roots. As other members of the family see her hair, they make playful yet funny remarks that keep the audience in laughter. This scene finds humor in situations that the audience might have experienced but is given context through the acting.
The gestures, accents, body language and ways in which lines were delivered by each individual actor provided the characters with more substance. For instance, George Murchinson (played by Ántonné Shephard), a pretentious and obnoxious character, was portrayed perfectly in the walk, talk and movements that the actor chose to incorporate for the character.
The lights dimly illuminated the stage, setting the scene in a living room that was worn down by the hustle and bustle of a working family. The dirty walls were beige with a pink damask on them and the decor was simple. There was also old furniture, including a long coach, a single couch, a small squared dinner table and a record player. Though the scene did not transport me into the 1950s, it did represent a living space that was messy yet homey, which fit well for the Younger family, who were struggling to make ends meet.
The costume design and music on the other hand were reminiscent of the time period. Walter Lee was seen in a off-white shirt, brown slacks and a tie, typically worn by the working class men at the time. Mama and Ruth Younger (played by Deborah Robinson) wore more conservative pieces, such as dresses, while Beneatha’s styles were more experimental and changed throughout the acts.
The main reservation on whether “A Raisin in the Sun” was going to perform well relied on the actors being new to the CRC stage. I was worried that the actors were not experienced and questioned how that would affect the production and the performance of the characters that they play.
The acting, however, complimented the playbook and made for a thought-provoking performance. The characters were well portrayed and the costume designs set the time period. The actors crafted their skills and techniques to draw the audience into the story, establish a bond and evoke their emotions, all while tackling various themes that were present then and are present now.