A Raisin in the Sun, written by the then twenty-nine-year-old Hansberry, was the "movin’ on up" morality play of the 1960s. Martin had mesmerized millions, and integration was seen as the stairway to heaven. Raisin had something for everyone, and for this reason it was the recipient of the prestigious New York Drama Critics Circle Award.
The place: a tenement flat in Southside, Chicago. The time: post—World War II. Lena Younger, the strong-willed matriarch, is the glue that holds together the Younger family. Walter Lee is her married, thirty-something son who, along with his wife and sister, lives in his mother’s apartment. He is short on meeting responsibilities but long on dreams. Beneatha (that’s right, Beneatha) is Waiter’s sister—an upwardly mobile college student who plans to attend medical school.
Mama Lena is due a check from her late husband’s insurance, and Waiter Lee is ready to invest it in a liquor store. The money represents his opportunity to assert his manhood. It will bring the jump start he needs to set his life right. Beneatha tells him that it’s "mama’s money to do with as she pleases," and that she doesn’t really expect any for her schooling. However, Mama wants to use her new money for a new beginning—in a new house, in a new neighborhood (white).
Walter cries, and Mama relents. She refrains from paying cash for the house and places a deposit instead, giving Waiter the difference to share equally between his investment and Beneatha’s college fund. Walter squanders the entire amount. Meanwhile, Mama receives a call from the neighborhood "welcome committee" hoping to dissuade the family from moving in.
While roundly criticized for being politically accommodating to whites, Raisin accurately reflected the aspirations of a newly nascent black middle class.
The film version of Hansberry's landmark play A Raisin in the Sun (1961) was the first depiction of African American life seen by mainstream America. Hansberry included in her screen version several scenes of the Younger family interacting with the white world to show their deprivation and the subtle forms of racism they encountered in their everyday lives. In typical Hollywood fashion most of those scenes were cut, which softened the drama's angry voice. This new edition of the uncut original was edited by Hansberry's ex-husband and literary executor Nemiroff, who made a lifelong commitment to seeing that Hansberry's talent was fully recognized. African American collections as well as film collections will find this script of interest.-- Marcia L. Perry, Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield, Mass.
“A beautiful, lovable play. It is affectionately human, funny and touching. . . . A work of theatrical magic in which the usual barrier between audience and stage disappears.”
John Chapman, New York News
“An honest, intelligible, and moving experience.”
Walter Kerr, New York Herald Tribune
“Miss Hansberry has etched her characters with understanding, and told her story with dramatic impact. She has a keen sense of humor, an ear for accurate speech and compassion for people.”
Robert Coleman, New York Mirror
“A Raisin in the Sun has vigor as well as veracity.”
Brooks Atkinson, New York Times
“It is honest drama, catching up real people. . . . It will make you proud of human beings.”
Frank Aston, New York World-Telegram & Sun
“A wonderfully emotional evening.”
John McClain, New York Journal American
Gr 9 Up—This live, full-cast performance of Lorraine Hansberry's classic 1958 play tells the story of a working class African-American family living in a small apartment on Chicago's Southside. The matriarchal Lena "Mama" Younger awaits the arrival of her deceased husband's $10,000 life insurance check. Her son, Walter, maneuvers to invest in a liquor store, while her daughter, Bennie, hopes to attend medical school with the money. Meanwhile, Walter's wife struggles to decide whether to terminate an unplanned pregnancy when they're already struggling to support their firstborn. When Mama makes a down payment on a house in a white section of the city, the neighborhood association offers to buy them out. The family balks until Walter loses the balance of the money in a fraudulent business deal. Then they must weigh dreams against reality. This is a stirring performance of Hansberry's take on the American Dream deferred, which was inspired by Langston Hughes's 1951 poem "Harlem." Every actor digs into his or her character with verve, and audience reactions highlight the subtle humor. Characters are frequently addressed by name, and each actor's voice is distinct enough for listeners to easily identify the speaker. As Bennie, Rutina Wesley of HBO's True Blood adds some star power, but Judyann Elder as Mama is the heart and soul of this production. Her character is alternately maternal and tart, feisty and vulnerable. A commanding presentation of a seminal drama that feels timelier than ever.—Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA