"What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?" Lorraine Hansberry took the title of her landmark play from that question, posed by poet Langston Hughes. It encapsulates the desperation clouding the lives of the family at the center of the play and people everywhere who strive to improve their situation.
Hansberry grew up in Chicago in the 1930s, where her semi-autobiographical drama is set. Raisin was the first play by an African-American woman to open on Broadway, and it won the Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play in 1959, when Hansberry was just 29 years old.
The drama takes place in the living room of a tenement home. A train rumbles by early in the morning. Ruth Younger (Samantha Beaulieu) comes out of the bedroom and wakes her son Travis (Tyler Felix), who sleeps on the couch. Her husband Walter (Anthony Bean) and his sister Beneatha (Nicole James-Francois) enter and have to wait for the bathroom. The cramped living situation is a constant reminder of the deferred dreams that haunt the story.
Walter considers his job as a limousine driver demeaning and wants to escape the endless deference of "Yes, sir" and "No, sir." He wants to invest in a friend's liquor store. Beneatha dreams of becoming a doctor. Mama (Pat McGuire Hill) anchors the family spiritually and socially, and she's waiting on a $10,000 insurance payment because of her husband's death. She wants to use the money to move the family into a house.
When the check arrives, the dreams collide. Mama makes a down payment on a home in a white section of town. A white man arrives at their door, offering to buy back the house at a considerable profit to the family, putting pride at odds with financial gain.
Under Will Williams' direction, Bean's Walter is volcanic and Hill delivers a nuanced performance.
With three acts and two intermissions, the show is long but never drags. This revival of a classic on its 50th anniversary is well worth seeing. — Dalt Wonk
A Raisin in the Sun
8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 3 p.m. Sun.; through Nov. 22
Anthony Bean Community Theater, 1333 S. Carrollton Ave., 862-7529; www.anthonybeantheater.com
Tickets $18 general admission, $16 students/seniors