Movie & Play Review of Lorraine Hansberry’s Raisin In The Sun

Lorraine Hansberry

The thing about classics of any kind is that you never know what you’re going to get when you read or watch them. You can look up all the reviews you want, but until you’ve cracked open the book or movie for yourself you can’t be sure if any classic is right for you.

I have often heard people gush over Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin In The Sun and told myself there was no rush to read it on my own because I would eventually have to read it for some class. Sadly, this book never actually made it onto the required reading list for any of my classes so it was left up to me to read it at my leisure. This summer, I finally had a chance to pick the play up from my mother’s collection while I waited for my own boxes to be shipped from Pittsburgh. My ultimate reaction was that this play was nothing like I expected to be. Instead, it was infinitely better.

A Raisin In the Sun Play Review

A Raisin In The Sun follows the Youngers, an African-American family living in South Side Chicago sometime between the end of WWII and the present. The Younger family includes Mama/Lena, a retired domestic worker;Walter/Brother, her son who has big dreams of making it; Ruth, Walter’s wife; Ruth and Walter’s son, Travis; and Beneatha, Walter’s younger sister who wants to become a doctor. As the play begins, the Youngers are all anticipating getting the insurance check that covered Walter Sr., Mama’s husband who has recently died.

Cover of A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

For once, I can actually agree with the general consensus and say that this particular play is worthy of the title of classic. Everything in Hansberry’s play felt extremely relevant and real to me, from the characters who were trying to figure out how to spend their new found fortune to the themes that Hansberry brought up about African-American’s place in American society. Even on paper, the characters’ emotions and actions are mapped out and shown so well that watching a film or live performance for Hansberry’s work was actually unnecessary. I personally enjoyed each aspect of the play and could see how certain issues such as, the idea of the black man’s ambitions being unrecognized or the questioning of whether blacks are better off assimilating into the American culture vs. African culture are still relevant. Yet, when I watched the 1961 film adaptation, I wasn’t necessarily as impressed by it like I was with the play.

Each person in the family has big dreams of what they want to do with the money when they get it, however, Walter is the most vocal about his plans. When the check finally comes, Mama takes the money and buys a house in an all-white neighborhood with half of it and gives the rest to Walter with strict instructions to put half in the bank for Beneatha’s medical education and use the other half for whatever he sees fit. Unfortunately, Walter does the opposite and things start to unravel from there.

A Raisin in the Sun Movie Review

For starters, the movie added and deleted key scenes that were important to the overall message of the play. In one deleted scene, Beneatha cuts her permed hair off and everyone is shocked by her actions. This depiction of going natural was empowering in the play. In the film, this scene is cut so that instead of physically shedding what is implied to be her “assimilated American habits,” Beneatha just goes into a monologue about how she will not take on anymore American habits and will instead identify more with her African roots. In my opinion, this scene would have been amazing if it was acted out properly by Diana Sands who played Beneatha.

A Raisin in the Sun 1961 Movie Poster with Sidney Poitier's photo in the middle right hand corner

Likewise, the scene where the Youngers’ neighbor comes in to borrow cleaning products before the family moves and warns/reminds Mama that going into an all-white neighborhood to live is dangerous for the times. This particular scene while not as profound as Beneatha’s hair cutting scene would have been good to show that not only whites were weary of the trouble that could come from blacks and whites living together. Yet, directors of the film chose to show only the white viewpoint instead in the visit that Mr. Linder who acts as the “welcome committee” to the Youngers’ new neighborhood makes to the family’s South Side apartment.

Even though the film did delete these two scenes and add scenes where Walter is sitting in a bar or shown chauffeuring his white boss around, I did somewhat enjoy it because of Sidney Poitier’s acting in the role of Walter. Out of all the actors in the film, he gave the best performance to me. His emotions were raw and he embodied the idea of being a man who the world had beaten down on to a T. Seeing him play Walter alongside Ruby Dee who played the role of Ruth was interesting since these two seemed to have good on-screen chemistry. While I did enjoy Diana Sands in her role as Beneatha, I was a little annoyed with her character in general in both the play and the book. However, I did chalk this up to being just part of the acceptable emotions that Hansberry’s play was meant to draw out of me.

I would definitely recommend the play and the 1961 movie adaptation. I eventually hope to get a chance to watch the 2008 film adaptation to see how Sean “P. Diddy” Combs acted in his role as Walter. Not to mention Phylicia Rashad is one of my favorite actresses so I would love to see her in the role of Mama as well.

I gave the play 5 stars and the movie 3 stars.

May Favorites

May was a month of chaos and blessings for me. I graduated from my Master’s program and also had a whopping total of two deaths in my circle of acquaintances/family.Yet, I was still able to acquire new experiences and favorites that will forever stand out when I think of 2013.

Random Life Experience: After graduating, my mother and I departed from Pittsburgh on our way home via airplane. What was supposed to be a routine trip turned into a nightmare and ultimately led to the bizarrest adventure I’ve ever had while traveling…….and that’s saying something since I’ve traveled in foreign countries by myself without knowing a lick of the local language and never had any huge mishaps. Put on standby in Chicago, My mother and I along with two random gentlemen were forced to deplane once we touched down in Branson, Missouri.

You’re probably thinking Branson, Missouri?!?! Where the heck is that?!…Honestly, had I not been forced off a plane in the middle of this destitute city I’d be asking the same thing (no offense to anyone from here). Sadly, I can’t give you geographic specifics due to being in a state of shock at the time of this event, but I can tell you under better circumstances, I would’ve probably enjoyed the peace and quiet of the city and the rustic landscape. However, I can only offer you the general observation that it had houses that looked like the set from Disney’s High School Musical when they showed Troy’s house.

After being deplaned, we were all given instructions to make our OWN way to Tulsa, Oklahoma if we wanted to get a flight home since the Branson Airport had no flights in or out for TWO WHOLE DAYS……..insert seriously pissed face here……When we all found this out, you can only imagine how we felt. At this point, things got really interesting.

Disclaimer: Growing up, my parents often taught my siblings and I the golden rules of interacting with strangers. These rules included a) Never talking to strangers  b) Never eat anything from them and c) NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES GET INTO A CAR WITH THEM. Looking at these rules you can only guess how scary and surreal it was for me to actually have to get in the car with two men that I didn’t know (Even though my mom was there with me) and riding for about 3+ hours from Branson to Tulsa. While both the men were gentlemen and we were all united in our anger at the airline, I sort of had a what the flip moment where I had to question my mother’s sanity doing the beginning of this imprmptu road trip.

Thankfully, we made it to Tulsa and got a new flight home the next morning and arrived all in one piece. The most amazing thing out of the whole trip was the fact that we were literally just miles away from where the tornado in Oklahoma hit. The four of us were literally joking about getting hit by some type of storm as we drove through the countryside and watched the sky turn from clear blue to steel gray before our eyes. At this time none of us imagined that there was an actual tornado reeking havoc so you can only imagine how my mother and I felt seeing the aftermath of devastation throughout Oklahoma. All I can say is I am BEYOND grateful that God let us make it home safely.

Favorite Album: As usual, I am tardy to the party and just got my copy of the 2011 masterpiece that is Megalithic Symphony, which is AWOLNATION’s first studio album. Thanks to Amazon having it’s bi-weekly sale on mp3 albums, I was able to get this album for a mere $5. I love the sound of this band. Unlike last month’s favorite album (i.e., Fall Out Boy’s Save Rock And Roll) AWOLNATION’s sound gives off more of a rock vibe than a pop one. This album has minimum screaming and is perfect for us pseudo-rockers who are master’s of the air guitar. Some song’s like “Kill Your Heros” and “Sail” are a bit explicit in the deliverance of their messages, but overall the album is a conglomerate of upbeat non-threatening songs. I would definitely recommend this album to anybody who enjoys a good guitar solo.

Favorite Book: I finally got to crack open Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier.  This book is a part of the fantasy genre of young adult fiction. The main aspect of the book deals with time traveling and a long ago foretold prophecy. When I tell you that this book is amazing, I mean that it is literally knock your socks off, laugh out loud ah-maz-ing.This book was so good that I had to scrounge together money to buy the sequel, Sapphire Blue for my Kindle at the crack of dawn just because I didn’t want the feeling of reading this series to end. I plan to post a review of tthese two books soon however, I wanted to share this as my absolute favorite book for May. Gier’s book is brimming with freshness, crazy plot twist, witty humor, and unbelievable characters. It’s a must for all YA lovers.

Personal Challenge: I have recently decided that I need to gain more knowledge about African and African-American Literature (i.e. my chosen area of graduate study). Therefore, I have deemed that this summer I will try my best to read at least one African or African-American themed book a week. To start off my reading, during the last week of May I read the play, A Raisin In The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry and watched the 1961 movie adaptation. Also, I was able to finish So Long A Letter by Mariama Ba. I will be posting a movie and play review for Hansberry’s book however, I didn’t have much to say for Ba’s book so I won’t bore you all with a review for that one. If you would like to here my general thought’s for Ba’s book, you can look at my goodread review.

Once again, I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and reading some good books. Please feel free to post your TBR piles in the comment section.

Cheers!