“A Raisin in the Sun” proves an apt opening for Shades Rep’s new location


On Thursday, November 30 I had the privilege of witnessing a group of outstanding actors perform Lorraine Hansbury’s classic “A Raisin in the Sun.” The powerful story has been performed live worldwide and filmed starring Sydney Poitier.

I had seen many productions and was familiar with the story. However, I can honestly say that under the direction of Joe Albert Lima, this incredibly touching story of racism and segregation in the 1950s, moved me more than ever before.

Performed at Shades Repertory Theatre’s new location at The Garnerville Arts and Industrial Center, 55 West Railroad Avenue, Dye Works Auditorium, Garnerville, New York, the stage was sparsely set, ( thanks to David Julin with much help from Tony Buccufafuri). Costumes were minimal, lights and sound basic and seating did not afford the best sight lines. Yet despite all of these obstacles, I was quickly drawn into the authenticity of the Younger family leaving the reality of my true environment behind.

Dameon Reilly as Brother Walter, discontented and smothering under the injustices imposed by a white ruled society, brought me to tears. Maiysha Jones Reilly, Walter’s wife Ruth, more than convinced the entire audience that she was in inner turmoil over the decision to terminate a pregnancy the family cannot afford. She cannot understand where the romance and love she and Walter once shared has gone. or why she can no longer make her husband happy. Mama, Bev Mitcham a powerful figure herself , is not able to make peace between her children, Walter and his sister Beneatha brilliantly portrayed by Ebonee Collins. Mama is waiting for a $10,000 check, a payment from her recently deceased’s husband insurance policy.

Mama and Ruth would like to use the funds to escape Chicago’s South Side ghetto. Walter and Beneatha have the same goal. However they each have very different ideas on how to accomplish their dream and flee the poverty imprisoning them. Beneatha wishes to go to school to become a doctor. Walter believes investing in a liquor store will bring them prosperity and with it respect. Beneatha is dating a college man, George played by Phil Gist, the antithesis of her Nigerian admirer, Marquis J. Wilson (Asagai). George is wealthy and proud of being a “college man.”

Asagai looks down on American blacks who have assimilated. He would have Beneatha return with him to Nigeria. In a most touching scene Walter tells his son, Travis (Nicholas Alden Parker) of his dreams. Keith Bullock as Bobo had the unhappy task of letting Walter know that their entire investment and with it their dreams disappeared with an unscrupulous associate.
Bruce Pearl, (Karl Lindner) the representative of the all-white home owners association, seeks to buy out Mama’s deposit for a profit. In a cameo role Leslie Smithey almost stole the show providing humorous relief in her characterization of nosey, mean spirited, neighbor Mrs.Johnson.
Walter decides to accept the home owner’s association offer and recoup some of the family’s lost funds. His soul searing monologue drowned in defeat and bitterness was worthy of a Broadway appearance and had the audience feeling his pain. As for young Nicholas I predict we will all be hearing from him if he continues to pursue his acting.

Unfortunately the production was scheduled for only three nights. However at every one of those nights the entire audience gave the stellar cast a standing ovation!

“A Raisin in the Sun” was co-produced by Robin Phillips and Penny Buccufuari.
The production of “A Raisin in the Sun” was made possible by a generous donation from the Piancentile Family Foundation.

For further information on upcoming shows, classes or to rent the spacious new loft spaces with its piano, lighting and sound equipment reach out to Samuel Harps, executive and artistic director of Shades Repertory. Inquiries can be made by calling 845-675-8044.

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