BWW Review: Relevant and Remarkable, Virginia Rep's A RAISIN IN THE SUN Delivers

BWW Review: Relevant and Remarkable, Virginia Rep's A RAISIN IN THE SUN Delivers
Photo by Jason Collins

"We was going backwards 'stead of forwards...When it gets like that in life - you just got to do something different, push on out and do something bigger."

- Lena 'Mama' Younger, A RAISIN IN THE SUN

There couldn't be a more appropriate cultural and political landscape for Virginia Repertory Theatre to mount Lorraine Hansberry's classic theatrical masterpiece, A RAISIN IN THE SUN. Now, more than ever, people need to receive and digest the powerful messages that lie within the pages of the acclaimed playwright's thought-provoking script-a theatrical magnum opus that is both lighthearted and profound.

Teeming with emotionally-charged and nuanced performances, and led by Tony-award winning actress Trezana Beverley, Virginia Rep's RAISIN is a tour de force not to be missed. Audiences can see the Broadway-caliber masterwork through March 11 at Virginia Rep's November Theatre.

It's the early 1950's in a claustrophobic, two-bedroom apartment in Chicago where the Younger family shares a community bathroom with at least one other family. Following the death of their hardworking patriarch, the family of six is waiting for a $10,000 insurance check. That money, while not enough to cover the value of the life lost, is enough to change their lives. Ruth Younger (Katrinah Carol Lewis) wants to get out of the lower-class, postage-stamp apartment and into a home with enough bedrooms (and a bathroom) for everyone. Her husband, Walter (Jerold Solomon), wants to give up his job as a chauffeur to the wealthy to invest in a liquor business with his buddies. His younger sister, Beneatha (Jasmine Coles) wants to study to become a doctor. The matriarch, Lena 'Mama' Younger, is the most guarded about what she plans to do with the money. The insurance check, arriving on Saturday, comes with more conflict than any of the Youngers could imagine.

Under the crowning direction of Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, each cast member's performance is organic and engaging-giving patrons the sense that they are seeing the private and sometimes raw exchanges of the Younger family...not simply being treated to a first-rate theatrical production, which this very much is.

Katherine Field's set tends to the smallest details to bring the cramped Younger apartment to life. Lynne Hartman's supreme lighting design makes incredible use of set fixtures and a well-placed scrim. Emily Tappan's picture-perfect costumes add dimension to the setting. Derek Dumais' sound design is natural, and makes great use of vintage radio hits.

The entire cast delivers in one of the most captivating ensemble pieces of theatre this season. Jerold Solomon bursts with the energy of Walter Lee Younger's dreams, but finds himself shackled by his poverty and desperation. Katrinah Carol Lewis delivers one of her finest performances as Walter Lee's ready-to-break yet strongminded wife. Bru Ajueyitsi is convincing as Beneatha's friend-turned-romantic-interest and has an authentic Nigerian accent. Kevin Minor perfectly captures George Murchison's privileged and high-class life. Matthias Williams is charming as the youngest member of the Younger family.

Jasmine Coles is perfectly cast as the eccentric and aspirational Beneatha, and has a show-stealing moment with a tribal chant and dance featuring an equally delightful Solomon. But it's Trezana Beverley as Lena 'Mama' Younger, who gradually inherits the reins of the production with a finely shaded performance. Audiences will hear the nuance in every word she speaks and absorbedly watch every move she makes.

Virginia Repertory Theatre's production of this landmark piece of theatre runs through March 11 at the November Theatre.

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