The gorgeous California Theater in Pittsburg is the venue for Pittsburg Community Theater’s “Raisin in the Sun.” This powerful play by author Lorraine Hansberry shines an intense light on the dark side of the 1950s. Its return during Black History month is a time to more joyously celebrate this story of black family pride, independence and resolution.
The book, the movie and the play written in 1957 and produced on Broadway in 1959, is based on a true story that makes a powerful statement about how minorities have been mistreated in the past and still are in some parts of the country, as undesirables in many upscale or all white communities.
The 1940 Supreme Court Hansberry v. Lee decision reversed a previous decision, and allowed hundreds of homes to be open to black ownership in Illinois.
Walter Younger (Jason Anthony), Ruth (Phillecia Rayshaun) and their son Travis (Elijah Waller), live with Walter’s sister, Beneatha (Lexy Ronning) and his mother, Lena (Gwendolyn Sampson Brown), in a dilapidated, cockroach infested, two-bedroom apartment on Chicago’s Southside.
The family received $10,000 in life insurance proceeds after Walter’s father died, and now have the financial means to make the down payment on a home of their own. But conflict brews among family members as Walter believes that the $10,000 dollar death benefit could better benefit the family if he were allowed to invest it in a liquor store partnership instead.
A family divided
The family finds themselves in a painful and divisive situation when Lena rejects the liquor store partnership idea and uses part of their death benefit for the down payment on a nice affordable home located in an all-white neighborhood.
As the now divided family makes plans to move into their new home, they are visited by a homeowners’ association member, Karl Lindner (Michael Wilson), who attempts to bribe them to not move into the all-white neighborhood by generously offering to repay them more than they invested as their down payment. The mother and sisters are shocked by Walter’s willingness to accept the offer so that he can buy into the liquor store partnership, which they feel would be great risk since none of them know anything about running a liquor store Chaos ensues.
Director La Tonya Watts drills deeply into the heart of the actors’ most precious talents to thrill the audience. Gwendolyn Sampson Brown’s portrayal of the mother should be considered a true award-winning performance. The entire cast is touching and believable
This brilliantly written and superbly portrayed drama continues through this coming weekend, closing Mar. 1.
Ticket prices range between $16 and $81. Call the box office at (925) 427-1611 or Click here. The California Theater is located at 351 Railroad Avenue in Pittsburg, with ample parking nearby.
Charles Jarrett is a journalist, photographer and voice-over artist. He is a member of the San Francisco Theater Critics Circle. His reviews appear frequently in the Orinda News, Martinez Gazette and Rossmoor News. Email comments to email@example.com.