Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

A Raisin in the Sun
West Coast Black Theater Troup

Alice M. Gatling (foreground); Will Little, Dhakeria Cunningham and Jasmine McAllister
West Coast Black Theater Troup is presenting an excellent production of Lorraine Hansberry's classic play A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Jim Weaver and anchored by an outstanding performance by Alice M. Gatling as matriarch Lena Younger. Even though Ms. Gatling seems a bit young to be the mother of two grown children, she captures the depth of emotional understanding, gained from years of struggle against poverty. She shares the stage with FSU Conservatory Graduate Will Little as son Walter Lee, explosive in his anger against the man and society's road blocks as he struggles mightily to make a better life for his family. Jasmine McAllister as his wife Ruth and Dhakeria Cunningham as daughter Beneatha both give powerful performances. All four capture the emotional underpinnings of a family, loving and struggling together.

My personal history with Lorraine Hansberry and A Raisin in the Sun is long, going back to my youth. I am sure I saw the motion picture made from this great play at some time or other, and I remember reading and studying the script in various theater and acting classes. I also recall seeing a production of Ms. Hansberry's only other play, A Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window, in Boston, possibly at The Charles Playhouse or Brandeis University. I also saw and immediately fell in love with the musical version, Raisin, with its Tony Award winning performance by Virginia Capers, seeing it on Broadway several times and on tour, and can distinctly remember taking my young godson, who also fell under its spell. I saw the play at the Huntington Theater in Boston with Phylicia Rashad in the role of Lena Younger a number of years ago.

One thing that is special about the play is that it adjusts to the size and quality of the theater producing it, here it plays intimately in the WBTT 200 seat theater. My companion for the afternoon commented that he felt like he was sitting in the Younger living room, especially in the second act. All of the actors rise to the excellence of the material, with a strong assist from director Jim Weaver. He has helped all of the performers to understand the racial tensions of the play's time and setting, especially impressive because I do not believe that any of the actors was even born as early as 1959. It is easy to understand it from a study of black history, much harder to live characters of the era. Each and every member of the cast shares in this excellence.

The production is well served in all the technical aspects, the uncredited sets, costumes by Alice Bell, Technical Direction by Shane Streight, Sound Design by Sean Robinson and the work of Production Manager James E. Dodge, II. WBTT continues to impress with the excellence of their productions.

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry , presented by WBTT Theater, 1646 10th Way, Sarasota, Florida, 366-1505. Through February 19, 2012. For more information, visit WBTT has announced that they have added several additional performances of A Raisin in the Sun due to demand at the book office. Check their website or the box office for dates and availability.

David Abolafia as Karl Lindner
Emmanuel Avraham as George Murchison
Dhakeria Cunningham as Beneatha (Bennie) Younger
Alice M. Gatling as Lena (Mama) Younger
Bryson Gregory as Travis Younger
Will Little as Walter Lee Younger
Jasmine (Jaszy) McAllister as Ruth Younger
Joshua Nwankwo as Joseph Asagai
James Pierre as BoBo

Directed by Jim Weaver
Production Manager: James E. Dodge, II
Technical Director: Shane Streight
Costume Designer: Alice Bee
Sound Engineer: Sean Robinson
Lighting Designer: Jennifer Griffin Minor

Photo: Don Daly Photo

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--William S. Oser

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