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Stage Capsule Reviews

Our critics weigh in on local theater

A Raisin in the Sun The mother of all black dramas, Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 prize-winning play has such an enveloping warmth and goodness to it that at first glance, it seems retrograde and old-fashioned. Only when you realize that Hansberry did it first can the work be seen for the groundbreaking play it truly is. All the stage archetypes are firmly in place: the widowed matriarch (Elayn Taylor) holding her disparate family members in a bosomy embrace of dignity and religion; the wayward son (Davi Jay Broussard) seduced by easy money who dreams of a better life; the hardworking son's wife (Cheray Dawn Josiah), who's so battered down that she inadvertently drives her husband from her arms; and the smart-ass sister (Jordyn Lorenz) who mocks assimilation and lets her hair go natural. The $10,000 life insurance policy that Mama finally receives threatens to sunder the fragile family. Unending poverty, the smiling ghoul face of racism, and movin' on up are intertwined and blended into a color-blind humanism that sets this play apart. Hansberry brought the ghetto right onto Broadway, and her underlying activism and sense of justice and fair play stand out with startling clarity and loving, unstinting insight. In another of its beautifully realized productions this season, Ensemble Theatre breathes fresh air into this seminal drama, lightening it and letting it soar effortlessly into its rightful place in stage history. The ensemble cast is flawless, and Hansberry's didactic passages -- few but necessary for putting her themes into the context of the times -- are handled with proper restraint and esteem. Hansberry died prematurely at the age of 34. While Raisin's adamant, life-affirming vision documents the black experience, it eloquently speaks to us all. Through May 27. 3535 Main St., 713-520-0055.

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