Tantallon Community Players A Raisin In The SunBy Courtney Ferguson • Mar 5th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Tantallon Community Players
Harmony Hall Regional Center, Ft. Washington, MD
Through March 14th
$15/$12 Students and Seniors
Reviewed February 26th, 2010
What a show! The Tantallon Community Players put on an amazing production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. The cast was extraordinary, bringing to life the Youngers, a poor black family living on the Southside of Chicago. A Raisin in the Sun deals with the plight of family relationships and broken dreams. Moreso the dreams of African Americans during a time when a black man or black woman didn’t have the means to pursue their worldly desires. What does a dream mean to a man who has nothing to call his own…and what happens when he loses that dream?
The show begins early in the morning, in a cramped Chicago apartment in which the Younger family, Mama, Beneatha, Ruth, Walter and Travis all live. Travis the youngest has to sleep on the couch and they all have to share one bathroom with the entire apartment complex. One by one as the Youngers wake up, we are introduced to who they are and their distinctive personalities. It is revealed that the family is eagerly awaiting an insurance check for $10,000 from Mama’s deceased husband’s insurance policy, and everyone is eager to know what she will do with the money. Walter wants a cut of the money to fulfill his dream of owning liquor store, an investment he thinks would bring in lots of money and make him successful, while Beneatha needs money for medical school. To Mama, Beneatha’s medical schooling is much more important than a liquor store and she is more than proud to set aside a part of the money for Beneatha, a decision that doesn’t go well with Walter and eventually leads him to a break down that causes Mama to have to make a tough decision.
Terry Spann captured all the right emotions as Walter Lee Younger, giving a spot on performance. Spann captured the pain of having a dream and others telling you it will never happen. Spann had all the right moves, but at the same his performance was a bit overdramatic at times loosing the authenticity of his character. Walter’s not shy about his bitter attitude towards Beneatha (Christine Champion) going to medical school, but Beneatha doesn’t care. Champion brings pure energy to the character of Beneatha. Her struggle with self identity and the need to connect with who she truly is was touching. Champion was quite the comedian at times nailing one liners and placing her own wit behind Beneatha’s fiery attitude.
Lena Younger also known as “Mama” was played by Robin Dorsey. Dorsey encapsulates the role of Mama as the rock of the family and exhibits a range of emotion throughout the show that causes the audience to feel and sympathize with her. Lolita-Marie Clayton exemplifies the plight of a woman who sacrifices herself for the benefit of others and does what needs to be done in order to get by despite her circumstances. Ruth tries to keep herself together, but even she can’t deny the elation you get from having a dream when Mama announces she’s going to use the money to buy a new house for the family. A new house means new opportunities. Her joy is understandable yet hypocritical to Walter who feels his dream was overlooked.
Jivon Lee Jackson and Jeremy A. McShan both played Beneatha’s love interests, Asagi, a student from Nigeria whom Beneatha adores, and George Murchinson, a pretentious rich boy who Beneatha has nothing in common with. Both the roles of Asagi and George are very important, they represent the struggle Beneatha feels between finding herself and following her dreams vs. conforming to society’s standards. Jackson is touching as Asagi delivering some of the most touching and important lines that are a direct response to most of the characters’ inner conflicts.
The Younger’s nosey, pompous neighbor Mrs. Johnson (played by Shemika Berry) provided another burst of energy to a show that never loses it’s momentum. The role is small, but Johnson’s intrusion into the Younger household represents those who will try to put you in your place when things begin looking up, but just as all people should, the Youngers slammed the door behind her as she left their apartment with a “don’t let the door hit ya on the way out!” type of attitude. With that same essence is the character Karl Linder played by Casey Hebert from the welcoming committee representing the forces that try to keep you down when moving forward in your life.
Timagnus Traylor as Willy delivers some of the most devastating news in the show that serves as a turning point for the entire family. The only thing that was confusing about the show was how Willy entered the Younger household singing and smiling, right before he was about to deliver the devastating news. The instant change of emotion was a bit confusing. Kerrington Banks as Travis Younger was too cute and able to portray his role as the “youngin,'” carefully observing and taking in the actions of those around him.
The entire production was thoughtfully put together by director Rikki Howie. I applaud her and the cast for keeping this story fresh and alive, a story that has been told many times in many different ways. It never felt banal or cliché and I feel that speaks to the direction given by Howie, and the talent of the actors.
“Dare to dream,” “Follow your dreams,” “Dreams come true”: these are sayings we grew up hearing and believing in, or we should. 50 years ago Lorraine Hansberry got it right and tonight we hope we do too-50 years later!! The certainty that the ideals of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” can become reality for anyone willing to work for them is what we call the American dream. For many, the dream does come true. For many it does not. Author Lorraine Hansberry knew about disappointment, false hope, and despair. For many of her African American ancestors who had come north for a better life only to find exploitation and frustration, the dream had become a nightmare. In contemporary terms, she chronicles their nightmare in A Raisin in the Sun, an epic story of the Younger family struggling to realize the American dream by escaping ghetto life. Hansberry’s play not only tells the story of the Youngers but also reveals the plight of all who have failed dreams. Tonight you will see actors who are following their dreams to present to you a telling tale. They will share with you where they are, how they got there and how no matter what-their dream will not be deferred. The characters you will see tonight have all as we do every day, fighting against the odds, sometimes following the pipe dream, only to find nothing at the bottom. However out of that defeat, there can be a win – a light of hope, the ability to dream the impossible dream succeed. I have learned thru this process that all you have is your dream and don’t ever let anyone change you from the course of achieving that dream. Who knew that a year ago that I would be directing this play with these wonderful actors, I did not but 1 person did. “You are going to do great things here daughter and I’m proud of you-you are living the dream you always wanted to live!!!” All it takes is one person to support your dream and not allow it to be deferred. Who knew that in this cast I would find such close similarities of my own family and friends. I hope that you find in each of their stories, sand and unsaid, the strength to dream, face adversity, challenge the odds and win. Thank you mom for watching over me and putting the right people in my path to allow this dream and many others to become a reality. Don’t let your dream be deferred…and enjoy the show.
- Walter Lee Younger: Terry Spann
- Ruth Younger: Lolita-Marie Clayton
- Beneatha Younger: Christine Champion
- Travis Younger: Kerrington Banks
- Lena “Mama” Younger: Robin Dorsey
- Joseph Asagai: Jivon Jackson
- Bobo/Mrs. Johnson Understudy: MarQuis Fair
- Mrs. Johnson : Shemika Berry
- Karl Linder: Casey Hebert
- Moving Man: Derris Banks
- Willy/Moving Man: Tim Traylor
- Director: Richelle “Rikki” Howie
- Producer: Larry Carbaugh
- Assistant Producer: Leslie Luense
- Stage Manager: John Battersby
- Back Stage Manager: Derris Banks
- Set Design: Rikki Howie
- Costumes: Jeanette Vaughn, Anya Nebel
- Hair and Make up: Cast
- Special Effects, make up: Lolita Marie Clayton and Rikki Howie
- Light Design: Sheryl Frye
- Sound Design: Rikki Howie
- Sound and Light Operators: Harmony Hall Staff
- Set Construction: Mark Holt assisted by George Roff, Jerry Caputo, Larry Carbaugh, Cast
- Set Painting and Dressing: Rikki Howie
- Properties: Art Greene, Charla Rowe
- Publicity: Jo Rake
- Photography: Scott Beland
- Graphic Design: Jennifer Reitz, John Whitley
- Program: Leslie Luense
- Choreography: Jermey McShan
Disclaimer: Tantallon Community Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/4769.
Courtney Ferguson is currently a student in the theatre arts program at Howard University pursuing a B.F.A in acting. Her plans are to go on to grad school to study Voice and Speech. Her credits include work on and off the stage, and she can be seen in the upcoming production of The Laramie Project with the Providence Players.