The Palace Theatre brings the struggles of the 1950s back to life with a revival of A Raisin in the Sun put on by the London Community Players. Their adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s original 1959 script includes two Western student actors, and a few emotive performances coupled with a realistic set leaves a lasting impression on audiences.
The play follows the lives of the Younger family in Chicago’s South Side. Their realities become more complicated when they are left with insurance money after the death of Walter Lee and Beneatha Younger's father. The event causes strained relations between the siblings, as well as the grandmother character, Mama Lena Younger, and Walter's wife, Ruth Younger. These relations become even more tense when the family decides to buy a home in an all-white neighbourhood.
The play is a family drama with tension between characters due to racial issues and the failure to achieve the American dream.
The acting overall is a mixed bag. Sherine Thomas-Holder plays Mama Lena Younger and delivers a convincing performance as Walter Lee and Beneatha’s mother. She shows the widest range of emotion and her acting appears most natural.
Candice Jennings, a third-year biology student at Western, plays her character Beneatha equally as well. She offers wit and comedic relief to this mostly dramatic play. Throughout the play her character becomes increasingly interested in Africa, especially once she dates a Nigerian man.
The two lead performances are the weaker points of the play. Sean George, who plays Walter Lee Younger, makes some mistakes while reciting his lines and doesn't deliver the same range of emotion as other actors. His pauses in between lines are followed up with rushed dialogue, which seems a bit unnatural in conversation.
Chinnique Browne, a third-year psychology student at Western, plays Ruth Younger and her performance also falls a little flat. She doesn’t react naturally or emotively to her character’s disintegrating marriage, becoming unexpectedly pregnant, or her husband’s drinking problem. But as a debut acting performance, it’s a heavy role for Browne to take on.
The set design is a highlight of the production as it perfectly suits both the time period and the family’s financial struggles. The play has an unchanging set of the family’s kitchen and living room area in their apartment. The set conveys the cramped living space, and the cracks in the walls and poor paint job add to the overall effect.
Above all, the play’s director, Martin McIntosh, does an impeccable job at bringing the script to life and is successful in emphasizing the family’s troubling relationships and day-to-day struggles. All the production elements, including the perfectly-dimmed lighting and realistic '50s-style clothing, come together well. The choice of music before the scenes is also appropriate for the mood of the play, including The Beatles’ song, "Here Comes the Sun," which assures you that everything’s going to be all right.
All things considered, A Raisin in the Sun is worth seeing as it has all the elements that make up a good play. Its authenticity, captivating performances and fitting set make it a memorable production.
Tickets for A Raisin in the Sun are available online and performances run at the Palace Theatre until Feb. 19.