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February 8, 2013

TT: The takers and the "tooken"

In today's Wall Street Journal I review two outstanding Florida productions, Palm Beach Dramaworks' A Raisin in the Sun and Orlando Shakespeare's Othello. Here's an excerpt.

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What makes a play political? Sometimes it's all in the timing. "A Raisin in the Sun," Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 drama about a black family that wants to move to a white neighborhood, doubtless came across as strongly political when it first opened on Broadway. How could it have been otherwise? Fifty-four years later, though, "Raisin" seems not so much a here-and-now assault on racism as a history play about black culture in the Eisenhower era, and what hits you hardest is the unflinching truthfulness with which Ms. Hansberry has enacted the hurtful and universal complexities of family life.

sf-palm-beach-dramaworks-raisin-in-the-sun-201-002.jpegThough it's been nine years since "Raisin" was last seen on Broadway, it was already receiving its fair share of regional productions prior to the 2010 premiere of "Clybourne Park," in which Bruce Norris imagined what might have happened to the house that the Younger family bought in the early '50s. The success of Mr. Norris' toothless little satire, however, has inspired still more companies to revive the original play on which it is based, which is what brought me down to West Palm Beach to see "Raisin." I already knew that it was effective, but Palm Beach Dramaworks' production, simply staged by Seret Scott and acted to perfection by a phenomenally well-chosen cast, suggests that it is in fact one of the finest American plays of the 20th century...

Traditional stagings of Shakespeare's plays are hard to come by these days, and it's refreshing to be reminded, as Orlando Shakespeare is currently doing in its outstanding version of "Othello," that the greatest of all English-speaking playwrights can scrape along quite nicely without hip costumes or self-consciously clever directorial touches. Brian Vaughn's production takes place in 16th-century Venice and Cyprus, not Greenwich Village or Nazi Germany, and unfolds on a flexible Elizabethan-style unit set designed by Bert Scott that hurls you from scene to scene with electric swiftness. Nothing is allowed to divert your attention from Shakespeare's harsh portrayal of jealousy run rampant, and the cast tells the tale briskly and forcefully....

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Read the whole thing here.

Posted February 8, 2013 12:00 AM

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