(Chris Jones’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 8/30.)
Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun" is, surely, the greatest Chicago play.
Oh, there are other contenders — "The Front Page," this town's namesake musical, even "Clybourne Park," a Pulitzer Prize-winning drama that riffs on Hansberry's 1959 masterpiece. But viewed on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s declaration of "I Have a Dream" in an immersive, intimate, visceral, local, emotional, superbly acted production from Ron OJ Parson at the TimeLine Theatre, there really is no contest.
There is no great body of Hansberry work that would have made this daughter of Chicago a beloved civic treasure in the way that August Wilson forever will be the poet of Pittsburgh. Hansberry died at 34; a crushing loss for American literature. Aside from a second minor drama, she left behind only this play.
But what a piece of work.
It ripples with the complexities of all that is Chicago: It references its street corners; the promise of freedom and economic progress it held for southern blacks of a generation barely removed from slavery; the civic glue of its families; its many heartbreaks; the pride of all its citizens in their neighborhoods and their communities; and the huge possibilities and crippling dangers thereof.
(Lorraine Hansberry's writing–To Be Young, Gifted, and Black–is included in One on One: Playing with a Purpose, Monologues for Kids Ages 7-15. View on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/One-Playing-Purpose-Monologues-Applause/dp/1557838410/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1377981465&sr=8-2&keywords=One+on+One%3A+Playing+with+A+Purpose)