Last night we saw a production of Raisin in the Sun at the Timeline Theater in Chicago, directed by OJ Parsons. It was a spell-binding production in part because of its complete intimacy. Timeline is a small theater and the thrust stage made the audience feel as if we were scattered about the living room, sitting in couches and chairs among the actors, in fact, in the very life of the Youngers, grappling with their economic, familial, and racial struggles and tensions.
It was a visceral production with very strong acting, especially among the women. The matriarch, played by Greta Oglesby, was powerfully resilient but could emotionally crumble, realistically and sympathetically. The daughter Beneatha, played by Mildred Marie Langford, who some believe is actually a semi-autobiographical Hansberry, balanced just the right youthful energy, sarcasm, and idealism together. The son Walter, played by Jerold Haynes, was a tightly wound coil ready to spring, which he often did, at a moment’s notice. His wife was played by Toni Martin- patient, practical, and virtuous. The white man who played the white Claybourgh neighborhood group, Chris Rickett, gave an absolutely chilling performance.
This period piece written in the late 50s, is still relevant. Its characterizations and familial tensions rooted in society’s racism are authentic and deep-seated, still pertinent and germaine, still poignant and affecting, in part because I was there, as one of the family members in their living room, as this drama unfolded.