Review Roundup: Critics Weigh In On A RAISIN IN THE SUN Starring Tonya Pinkins, Francois Battiste & More

Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin In The Sun comes to Astor Place this fall in Hansberry's Public Theater debut, directed by Tony Award nominee Robert O'Hara

By: Oct. 25, 2022
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Review Roundup: Critics Weigh In On A RAISIN IN THE SUN Starring Tonya Pinkins, Francois Battiste & More
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The Public Theater's revival of A Raisin In The Sun written by Lorraine Hansberry and directed by Tony Award nominee Robert O'Hara, is officially open at The Public Theater!

See what the critics had to say below!

The cast of A Raisin In The Sun includes Francois Battiste (Walter Lee Younger), Toussaint Battiste (Travis Younger alternate), John Clay III (Joseph Asagai), Calvin Dutton (Bobo), Mister Fitzgerald (George Murchison), Perri Gaffney (Mrs. Johnson), Skyler Gallun (Understudy), Paige Gilbert (Beneatha Younger), Mandi Masden (Ruth Younger), Camden McKinnon (Travis Younger alternate), Jesse Pennington (Karl Lindner), Tonya Pinkins (Lena Younger), and N'yomi Stewart (Understudy).

Directed by Tony Award nominee Robert O'Hara, this fresh look at a classic proves to be as provocative and powerful today as it was in 1959. Lena Younger has decided to use her late husband's life insurance to move her family out of their cramped apartment on Chicago's South Side. Her son, Walter Lee, has other ideas. This innovative new production of an American classic fearlessly interrogates the American dream in the face of racial and economic strife.

The production features scenic design by Clint Ramos, costume design by Karen Perry, lighting design by Alex Jainchill, sound design by Elisheba Ittoop, sound system design by Will Pickens, hair and wig design by Nikiya Mathis, video design by Brittany Bland, prop management by Claire M. Kavanah, fight and intimacy direction by Teniece Divya Johnson, and movement direction by Rickey Tripp. Clarissa Marie Ligon will serve as production stage manager and Andie Burns will serve as stage manager.

Jesse Green, The New York Times: "O'Hara - who aside from his brilliant direction of contemporary works like "Slave Play" and "BLKS" is a mordant comic playwright himself - is right to reimagine the genre expectations of "Raisin." It's what we do with all classics, not because they require it but because they can handle it. And if his pessimism about American racism is somewhat at odds with Hansberry's cautious optimism, well, he's had 60 more years of history to support his point. That the play is so prescient does not mean that its story is over. It means that, sadly, it never is."

Elysa Gardner, New York Stage Review: All of which is a shame, because the acting in this production is superb, and O'Hara, to his credit, guides his players with both sensitivity and wit. Francois Battiste captures the qualities that make Walter Lee a fascinating almost-tragic hero, revealing the character's struggle to walk the line between righteous pride and hubris in a muscular performance that can, when appropriate, be as funny as it is moving.

Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: The portrayal of Walter is one of O'Hara's many conspicuous choices in this production. Some of his changes work well, especially a couple of outright additions that provide eye-opening historical context for this story of a Black Chicago family deciding to move to an all-white neighborhood. Other O'Hara touches, most also meant to deepen the story, prove to be more distracting. But what's most effective about this production of "A Raisin in the Sun" is not the obvious handiwork by the director. It is the core of capable if not always outstanding acting, led by the almost unrecognizable Tonya Pinkins giving a powerful performance as the matriarch Lena Younger. It is also a design team quietly attentive to the inner lives of the characters. Their competence allows Lorraine Hansberry's craft to emerge, her ability to make a family drama a prophetic piece of social commentary - with issues ranging from redlining to abortion to African colonial struggles to the African-American generational shift - without losing sight of the family.

Regina Robbins, Time Out: O'Hara's production rejects sentimentality: Even as we absorb the characters' frustration and despair, we also witness their reflexive meanness, frequent pettiness and casual violence toward one another. This, A Raisin in the Sun suggests, is another legacy of oppression. Hansberry's defining work may not be radical in form, but it remains a landmark of radical truth-telling in the theater.


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