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A Raisin in the Sun


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Hidden Stages Chicago.

One measure of a strong script is that it doesn't depend on a top cast or a magnificent set. Such is the case most of the time with Lorraine Hansberry's ground-breaking, award-winning 35-year-old play about an African American family striving for the good life on Chicago's south side. Even when performed under what could have been disastrous circumstances--the set is cheap and ugly, the lighting and sound design are awkward and manipulative, and the mostly green cast ranges from wooden to really good--Hansberry's play draws us into the Younger family and makes us care deeply about their travails.

Nevertheless the play suffers a little in this two-notches-above-community-theater production. Most notably Hansberry's overdependence on long monologues becomes all too obvious two-thirds of the way through the show, when she stops the story again and again for tangential, self-indulgent monologues that do nothing to deepen characters we already know very well. First-class actors can paper over this weakness, but not this cast.

Director Kemati Janice Porter did have the wisdom (or luck) to find an actress with the range and power to play Mama, the moral center of the play. Even when others are flubbing lines or not quite mining their emotional depths, Felisha McNeal's Mama keeps her head.

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