ASR Theater ~~ “A Raisin in the Sun” Still Potent Decades Later

By Mitchell Field

Lorraine Vivian Hansberry’s play A Raisin n the Sun opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on March 11, 1959, the first play by an African-American woman to be produced on Broadway. At the age of 29, she became the youngest American playwright to win the The New York Drama Critics Award for Best Play. It was nominated for four Tony awards. Five years later, Hansberry died of cancer.

Her subject was life in oppressive circumstances. The current production of Raisin at Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse reminds us that the more things change, the more they stay the same. On designer Jared Sorenson’s intentionally claustrophobic set, the living-room of a cockroach-infested 1950s Southside Chicago apartment, three generations of an African-American family deal with racism, housing-discrimination and assimilation, while awaiting a $10,000 insurance settlement from the death of the family patriarch.

…family, love and forgiveness are more important than money…

For Mama, (KT Masala) it’s money to escape crushing poverty and move to a suburban home of their own–the American Dream. For her married son Walter (Terrance Smith) a discontented chauffeur, it’s a business of his own. For her daughter, bright high-schooler Beneatha (Amara Lawson-Chavanu) it’s to finance college and medical school, while she playfully holds-off suitors including a “fully-assimilated” black man named George (Mark Anthony) and Yoruban-Nigerian immigrant Joseph (Rodney Fierce).

Amra-LawsonChavanu (Beneatha Younger,) Terrance Smith (Walter Lee Younger) and Ash’Lee P. Lackey (Ruth Younger.) Photo by Eric Chazankin.

Walter’s long-suffering wife Ruth (Ash’Lee P. Lackey) and young son Travis (Bless Johnson) do their best to keep the peace.

Mama puts some of the money down on a new house, choosing an all-white neighborhood over a black one because it is cheaper, while Karl Lindner (Jeff Cote) a white representative of their intended neighborhood, makes an offer to buy them out, despite the family’s insistence that they are proud of who they are and will try to be good neighbors.

With the proviso that he bank $3,000 for Beneatha’s education, Mama gives the rest of the money, $6,500, to Walter, to buy a stake in a liquor store with his two streetwise pals, Willy and Bobo, What could possibly go wrong?

Terrance Smith (Walter Lee Younger,) Kai Nguyen (Travis Younger #2) and KT Masala (Lena Younger “Mama”). Photo by Eric Chazankin.

The New York Times called Raisin “the play that changed American theatre forever” and in recent years, publications such as The Independent and Time Out have listed it among the best plays ever written.

The lesson learned from first-time director Leontyne Mbele-Mbong’s excellent 6th Street Playhouse production is that family, love and forgiveness are more important than money.


Mitchell Field is a Sr. Contributing Writer for Aisle Seat Review. Based in Marin County, Mr. Field is an actor and voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact:


ProductionRaisin in the Sun
Written byLorraine Hansberr
Directed byLeontyne Mbele-Mbong
Producing Company6th Street Playhouse
Production DatesThru Mar 26th, 2023
Production Address6th Street Playhouse
52 W. 6th Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Telephone (707) 523-4185
Tickets$22 to $48
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review PICK?YES!