Archikulture Digest

A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the Sun

By Lorraine Hansberry

Directed by John DiDonna

Staring Cherise James, Parris Baker, Marshay Weaver, avis-Marie Barnes

Valencia College Theatre, Orlando Fl</strong>

Down beneath love, family and pride lies some basics economics – we’re all fighting for scarce resources. The Younger family is no different – in post war Chicago the patriarch of the family is dead and a $10,000 insurance settlement falls to Mama (Barnes). How best to deploy it? Her son Walter Lee (Baker) aims for a part interest in a South Side liquor store, daughter Beneatha (Weaver) wants shot at med school, and Mama debates buying a nice little house in a block busted white neighborhood, or just give it to church. Tossing it out the window won’t help their economic position, but it removes the stress of possible success. In the end nearly all options get exercised to some degree, including an invitation to Beneatha to move to Nigeria and discover her black heritage just as Colonialism collapses.

Everyone on stage is full of self destroying pride, and they let the world know about it. Mama keeps the flame of pride alive, even though her proudest accomplishment is having avoided lynching; but now she’s ready to move into the maw of white racism. Walter Lee wavers and quavers, he’s ineffective but puts the blame on everyone around him, particularly his hard working and occasionally pregnant wife Ruth (James.) Beneatha (I keep scanning that as “beneath ya”) wavers between college boy George Murchison (Devante Mills) and the nappy haired Nigerian Joseph Asagai (Mackenzie Jenkins). Murchison is rich and boring but his daddy owns big hotels, and Asagai is exotic and idealistic and is happy to know he might hold office in his homeland, and if he’s murdered in his bead it will be at the hands of his countrymen and not those damn French and Brits. That’s setting the bar low for your homeland.

While this show dates back to the peak of the civil rights movement, it still packs some emotional punch. You sort of want to like Walter Lee, but you also want to tell him to get off his “ya’ll ain’t letting me be a MAN!” hobby horsy and focus on how use what he has effectively. Shaking down white neighborhoods may not be the most moral job, buts it no worse than what’s being done to the Younger family. Murchison points forward and shows it’s possible to break out of the ghetto and plantation mentality, Asagai points backwards and shows that black empires did quite well half a millennia ago, and now the Younger family has to do what homesteaders have always done – adapt their strengths to the current environment, and focus on what they can do today, not on what their parents did a generation ago.

For more information on Valencia Character Company, please visit

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