What would you do if you received $10,000? Buy a car? Go to Las Vegas? Would you change your mind if the money came from an insurance settlement from your father’s death? What if you were struggling to make ends meet while forcing yourself to serve in others’ houses, sacrificing your dignity to put food on the table? Would you change your mind? The Younger family faces this problem in Theatre UCSB’s latest production, “A Raisin in the Sun.”
Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” follows the Youngers – a black family struggling to make its dreams a reality in socially hostile Chicago during the early 1950s. The play opens with the head of the family, Lena Younger (Bianca Swan), waiting for the arrival of the $10,000 life insurance settlement from her late husband. Also awaiting the arrival of the check are her opportunistic son, Walter Lee (Rashad El-Amin), and her Afrocentric daughter Beneatha (Aisha Camille Kabia). Cramped in a ghetto apartment, the five family members dream of something better and hope the money will advance their situation. Ruth (Taryn Corinne Bradley) and Lena dream of a house, humanitarian Beneatha dreams of becoming a doctor in Africa and Walter Lee dreams of investing in a better life. But life is never easy and it seems the Youngers have two strikes against them – beginning with internal conflict in the family and social pressure because of skin color, with opportunities for a better life always one step out of reach.
Although this play is set in a Chicago ghetto, the story and the characters span both time and space. The trials that a family goes through to not only stay together but to flourish and encourage each other to succeed can be easily transferred to any period. Director Judith Olauson masterfully blends music, stage and movement to create the offstage hostile world outside the apartment and its effects on the people we see inside. Relationships dynamically change, but so does the physical environment, the space between the actors and the tension felt in the room.
The acting was amazing. I was concerned in the opening scenes with the lack of intensity between the characters, but as the scenes developed the characters grew stronger, and by the climax the fire and intensity of each family member permeated the theater. The actors developed into a believable family and the individuals melded together well. I was especially pleased with El-Amin’s portrayal of Walter Lee and Swan’s portrayal of Lena. The mature acting of the entire cast impressed me and the production is worth attending.
“A Raisin in the Sun” runs through May 26 at the Performing Arts Theater on the UCSB Campus, Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. $16 general, $12 students and seniors. Call 893-3535 for information and tickets.