"It's too early in the morning to talk about money. It's not Christian," says actress Della Graham as she blazingly portrays Lena (Mama) Younger in this latest revival of Lorraine Hansberry's ageless play. Told through the prism of one family's frustrations on how to effectively invest an insurance payment from the death of their patriarch, A Raisin In the Sun is a reminder that discussing financial matters can be uncomfortable but vital.
Raisin, the first Broadway play written by a Black woman, covers cultural assimilation, segregated housing and the theme of legacy planning. Graham shares the stage with charged emotions from Lillian Jones, Stacey Johnson and Katrina McIntosh as they portray a Black family trying to escape 1950s South Side Chicago. The family members have vastly different suggestions on how to manage the money (liquor store venture, education planning, real estate, or travel).
Skillfully directed by Brad Powell, career fulfillment and marriage satisfaction, along with the check arrival, all become aspects of the characters' wealth. Powell shows a daring pursuit for rocking intensity in an intimate theatre space. Seasoned actors Vontress Mitchell, Joseph Kingsley, Barbara Jackson, Alan Picard, Leo F. Goode Jr. and John Cudjoe brilliantly round out the ensemble.
On the night of my attendance, when the audience learns that the insurance amount of the check is ten-thousand dollars, a few well-heeled individuals in my row laughed. With the help of moving performances, the audience is quickly reminded that the engine driving the play is not how much money will be received, but who will make the decision on how that money will be used. While the adult children are eager to offer feedback on Mama's financial plans, the ultimate decision rests with her and friction ensues.
The play debuted in 1959 but the enduring theme remains: inner wealth is the foundation for outer wealth. If your financial advisor is not asking you "Who do you want to benefit from all your hard work?", you are both missing an opportunity to have conversations on how to efficiently pass your wealth on to loved ones.
A Raisin in the Sun continues through the 15th of November at The Brad Powell Theatre.