A Raisin in the Sun



Note: A longer version of this review was published Feb. 6 from the Sundance Film Festival, where the film screened in the Premieres section. 

9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25

PARK CITY -- ABC's "A Raisin in the Sun" never totally transcends its origins on the stage, but those who can relax into the leisurely pace and lush language will be rewarded with an earnest and moving experience.

Adapted from Lorraine Hansberry's groundbreaking 1959 play and powered by the high-profile cast -- Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad, Sanaa Lathan and Audra MacDonald -- from the acclaimed 2004 Broadway revival, "A Raisin in the Sun" is a throwback to an earlier era of theater and race relations. But what's remarkable is that Hansberry's wit and vitality, the work of a 27-year-old playwright, still feels alive and relevant today.

It's the story of the Younger family set on Chicago's South Side in the early 1950s. The dream of freedom -- the ultimate goal for people like family matriarch Lena Younger (Rashad) -- has been replaced by the pursuit of the American dream by her son Walter (Combs). A chauffeur for a rich white family, he feels like he's missing his big chance. His sister Beneatha (Sanaa Lathan) feels she can be whatever she wants to be, alternately including an actor, a Nigerian dancer, an artist and a doctor. Each has a different idea of how best to use the $10,000 life insurance check from the death of Walter's father.

Director Kenny Leon, who also helmed the show on Broadway, attempts to open up the action, drawing on Paris Qualles' screenplay, which in turn is adapted from a TV version of the original play by Hansberry herself. The staging remains a bit creaky, but none of this diminishes the spirit of the play or the cast's commitment to the material, which almost seems palpable. It's still a provocative, powerful piece of work.