Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What Happens to a Raisin Deferred?

Recently our Play Production class (TA 127) got into Boston to see the Huntington Theatre Company's production of Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun." This was a great show, led primarily by the force of the actors. That may seem like an obvious statement, to suggest that a play is pulled along by the actors, but consider that there're so many elements which can bring a show from "barely watchable" to "can't tear my focus away." Let's play the "explain these various elements game." Otherwise known as the critic game. (My favorite game.)

The first thing we noticed was the set, as modern tradition would often have (curtain raised, world of the play exposed, audience waits for the action to happen on by). This was a hulking, nearly 1:1 scale apartment on a raised rotating platform. Most of the action took place in the livingroom/kitchen, which sported a sofa, a dining table, a record player, an oven, a sink, some chairs, and you get the idea. Rotate 120 deg. clockwise and we find the bedrooms, sparsely furnished, but one with a couple stacks of books on a desk. Rotate again and we find the side of the house, containing a solitary window, outside which lonely individuals will stand in half light. Personally, I really dig this sort of stage engineering. I've seen one high school and one college production which used a rotating stage, both requiring either actors or stagehands to move the thing. It's much smoother with a motor turning underneath, but I wouldn't discount the feel of the actor-driven set -- it just depends on what you're going for.

Next up, we've got the lights which turn up at the start like a pop concert, in sync with a rap track (leading to the uncomfortable laughter of the audience). I'll be more detailed: there were three walls of lights on the stage, surrounding the house, most pointing at the audience. I think I counted 94 total at intermission. This was an interesting set up, compared with the previous production we saw at the same theatre, "Invisible Man," a play which deals with similar themes as "Raisin" (I say "Raisin," but I don't mean to refer to the musical adaptation which goes by this monolexical title, but which I'm sure is great. (I also say "monolexical" and I hope that's a word; if not, I'd like to coin it and would like to know who I should contact about royalties)). That is to say, racism, bigotry, and dried fruits. If I remember correctly.

But the acting was solid. The one guy I felt like I wasn't getting enough from was the guy who played the ghost of the grandfather (who didn't get a credit in the program (because, I assume, he was actually a ghost who couldn't tell anyone his name)). I felt his portrayal was... transparent?

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