Last Friday I saw A Raisin in the Sun directed by Robert O’Hara at the Public Theater in New York City. A new friend, Tanaïs (who won the Kirkus Prize in nonfiction this week for her gorgeous book, In Sensorium: Notes for My People), had invited me, and in a bit of kismet, I was also asked by the Lorraine Hansberry Initiative to participate in a talkback with filmmaker Tracy Heather Strain after the show.
Because I wrote a biography of its author, Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun holds a special place in my heart, of course. But I was not expecting to be so deeply moved by this version of the play. It is the closest to Lorraine’s vision that I have ever seen. The actors sound right, in tone and cadence, for the South Side of Chicago setting. I would learn afterward that the cast is almost entirely composed of midwesterners. The staging is a cramped kitchenette apartment, showing wear and decay. The actors frequently speak simultaneously, giving a feeling of urgency and authenticity—families talk over each other. And nerves, desire, and rage are captured with the subtlety of stances, curling cigarette smoke, and gentle caresses. It is simply breathtaking.