As you enter the theater there is a house set on stage. Kitchen and sink area, living room area. There is a door to the hallway of the house where they share a bathroom with other people on the floor. There are 12 seats sitting right on stage and people are encouraged to sit right on stage, even though in this production the actors do not break the fourth wall. So even though the audience is inches from their face they pretend they can not see or hear them. There is a screen on the back wall that has Langston Hughes’s famous WHAT HAPPENS TO A DREAM DEFERRED. The title of the play is based on the second line of the poem. The poem was written 1951 so we know we are now in the 50’s or early 60’s in Chicago. To the extreme left sits a bar with three chairs. On the extreme right there are two white boxes, all of which we know will be used as different locations outside the house. The screen changes first to the first line of the poem and then to Scene One: Friday Morning and we are off.
This morning a check for $10,000 is being delivered by the postman. It is the insurance money from Lena’s dead husband Walter Lee Younger Sr. Everyone has money fever and pipe dreams for this money. Walter Lee Younger Jr. played with power and physicality by Mario C. Brown, wants to take the money and invest in a liquor store with his two friends, so he could finally be somebody; instead of spending his life driving white folks around. Ruth , played with subtle strength and backbone by Kyria Geneva, Walter Lee’s wife has a dream of moving to another house; one that has room for everyone in the family . Beneatha, played with energy and spark by Yanece Cotto, wants some to go toward her tuition to becoming a doctor. Lena, the expected “momma on the couch” is played adequately by Amanda Hargrove, and she is still open about what she wants to do. Ruth talks to Lena to try and convince her to support Walter Lee’s dreams but Lena is a very religious woman who will not be investing in a sinful liquor store. Lena reveals that her and her late husband’s dream ,when they were young, was to buy a house and fix it up – “GOD DIDN’T SEE FIT TO GIVE THE BLACK MAN NOTHING BUT DREAMS…..” said Walter Lee sr.
Each character has their own thing, like Lena’s always says “I AIN’T MEDDLING” which means she is doing just that. Beneatha has a habit of switching her “DIFFERENT FORMS OF EXPRESSION” everytime something more interesting comes along. Ruth is a hard working woman who finds out she is pregnant with a second child; when there is no room for the first. Walter Lee is like a bull in a china shop, everything he comes in contact with is the worse for the wear. At the end of the first act Lena and then Walter Lee finds out that Ruth has already paid a woman across town $5 towards her fee to get rid of this new baby. Lena is horrified but Walter Lee says nothing. Lena says to him :” I’M WAITING FOR YOU TO STAND UP AND BE THE MAN YOUR FATHER WAS. Walter Lee storms off instead. The second act is full with even more explosive things. The cast literally throws things into the audience area like chairs and small tables. The house is destroyed as the devastating news and events are revealed. Lena tries to make things good with Walter Lee and it blows up in her face. The only thing holding the family together is a house Lena spent some of the money for in a white neighborhood. It is humorous when the white community chair comes to convince them to sell the home back to the neighborhood. This becomes a watershed moment in the play. This production will grab you in the first minute and you are off on the roller coaster ride until the final moment. Again Keith Lee Grant does a brilliant job with a theatre classic at Harlem Repertory Theatre.