A Dream Deferred: The G Word

A Raisin in the Sun, the Lorraine Hansberry opus that is a perennial favorite for English teachers and dramatists is returning to Broadway for the first time since 2004, and none other than Ms. Diahann Carroll is set to play the role of familial matriarch, Lena Younger.  Now Ms. Carroll is one amazing women who deserves all the kudos in the world for being ready and rearing to take the stage at 78. Hey now. This is indeed an auspicious occasion.*

While I have never seen A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway, it is one of my favorite plays. I have read it several times since my pre-teen years and yes, of course I have seen the best staged version starring none other than Sidney Poitier. I have also put on full and excerpted performances of the show. There is little more thrill in rehearsal than watching someone get slapped and forced to repeat, "In my house, there is still God!" I sometimes even ponder the questions put forth in the Langston Hughes poem, Harlem, which sets the play in motion: "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore-and then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over- like a syrupy sweet? Or does it explode?" (Poems are meant to be read with proper spacing,so look it up.)

Every revival leaves cultural and arts critics looking for the relevance to today's world. Where does  A Raisin in the Sun fit in with today's political and social landscape? The themes of familial relationships, romance across the diaspora, male vs female roles, and the intersection of race and housing all resonate with people today. That's the landmark of a great piece, timelessness. (See yesterday's MC Higgins the Great post).

Timelessness however does not mean that viewpoints don't change or the prescription and solutions don't need to evolve. For the Younger family, the solution to moving on up was moving on out. Apparently the same worked for the Jeffersons, but in retrospect young Lionel's grandkids may have fared alright if George kept a house in the old neighborhood after moving on up to the Eastside.  Today the advice to many seems to be, stay put, you'll be better off in the long run than if you move to someplace only marginally better. Several articles over the past few weeks have lamented over the unsuspected side effects of "gentrification" within Brooklyn (hate the word, but no other way to convey). Apparently, gentrification is pricing out the second wave gentrifiers from the neighborhoods that they are moving into before they have time to reap the benefits of gentrification.
Initial thought: Cry Me a River. Reformed thinking: how exactly will people afford to withstand the rising prices?
A Raisin in the Sun ends with a magnificent scene of the family moving forward into their new neighborhood, where they likely faced discrimination and taunts, but also the joy of ownership, 40 acres, a mule, and life outside of a slum. For today's dreamers, the hope may be just how to stay where they are as changes around them make for renewed opportunities with better schooling, stores, and neighborhood resources. The whole thing is one messy suspicious occasion* waiting to explode- the sore has festered long enough.

*You have to watch A Different World to know this reference. You just have to.


Popular Posts