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Williamstown Theater Festival

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I saw my first WTF performance of the summer a couple of weekends ago--a great performance of A Raisin In the Sun, directed by Robert O'Hara. I'd read the play many years ago as a teenager, but had never seen it before. There were a few unexpected updates. First, although the father is already dead when the play begins, his ghost was played by an uncredited actor. Although it made his influence on the family more overt, I'm not convinced that It really added anything. Second, there is a monolog by Walter that he delivers straight to the audience under a spotlight, rather than to the other cast members. According to the NYT, he was holding a program from the show to berate the (mostly white, upper-class) audience members--from where I sat in the rear orchestra, I had no idea that he was doing that. The last and most controversial change was that, at the very end, after the family moves out, the son turns off the lights and the set of the Younger's living room is pulled back. A scrim showing a little yellow house drops down with the boy standing in front of it. And then the N-word is projected onto it in red graffiti. It was really shocking and affecting. When I first thought about it, I wondered if it was in keeping with the author's vision, which I thought was more hopeful about the family's future. But then I also realized that the play was not subtle about the fact that there might be trouble if a black family moved into a white neighborhood, and that it was really driving this point home. On the whole, it was a very powerful production, with great performances all around, especially those of S. Epatha Merkerson as Lena Younger and Francois Battiste as Walter Younger.

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Thanks for posting this, FPF. I too thought Hansberry's ending was essentially positive, without implying that a picnic lay ahead for the Youngers. From your description it sounds as if this production makes explicit what the author left, if not implicit, at least not spelled out. There is also the matter of inserting non-naturalistic elements into what is a naturalistic play - maybe it will work, maybe it won't - it can be hard to make them look organic to the work.

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