Broadway’s revival of the 1959 drama A Raisin in the Sun has went over extremely well with the critics, who lavished praise upon stars Denzel Washington, Sophie Okonedo, director Kenny Leon and the rest of the ensemble cast.
The latest production, playing in New York’s Ethel Barrymore Theatre – where the play first debuted more than 50 years ago – reunites Washington with his Fences director, who also directed “Raisin’s” 2004 revival starring Sean “Diddy” Combs.
Washington stars as Walter Lee Younger, an embittered chauffeur who dreams of owning his own liquor store.
Variety called his performance “a personal triumph,” while USA Today branded his portrayal “riveting.”
“Despite the central presence of a movie megastar, the 2014 Raisin has a welcome egalitarianism,” wrote Ben Brantley in the New York Times.
Despite playing a man some 20 years his junior, Washington – who last starred on Broadway in 2010′s Fences – drew age comparisons to Diddy’s turn in the same role a decade ago.
“The age factor becomes a non-issue the minute he hits the stage,” writes David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. “Washington slides and swaggers around with the physicality of a still-young man who refuses to let go of his dreams, no matter how stubbornly they elude him.”
“The actor gives a sterling account of Walter Lee’s careless sourness, wrote Peter Marks, of the Washington Post, calling him “the master of the proud loser.”
The “bona fide ensemble piece” also won praise for British actress Okonedo making her Broadway debut as Washington’s wife. She is singled for her “bone-weary” performance, which The Hollywood Reporter describes as “standout” and Variety calls “utterly mesmerizing.”
There was more praise for both director and the ensemble cast, which includes: Latanya Richardson Jackson, Sean Patrick Thomas and Tony-winner Anika Noni Rose, as Walter’s forward-looking sister.
“Washington is the star attraction, but it’s the harmonious balance of an impeccably matched ensemble that makes [director] Kenny Leon’s lovingly staged revival of A Raisin in the Sun so alive with authentic feeling,” writes the Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney.
[Washington] “refrains from star-strutting to fold himself into a tight-knit ensemble of committed stage thesps who treat this revival like a labor of love,” echoed Variety’s Marilyn Stasio.
The director and cast “have reclaimed Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play as an American classic, one that both captures a distinct time in our history and carries an enduring relevance and resonance,” concludes Elysa Gardner of USA Today.
The play runs until June 15.