By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The biggest criticism you could level against A Raisin in the Sun was contained in George C. Wolfe's famously scathing satire "The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play" in his sketch revue The Colored Museum. Wolfe eventually uses this short play as an indictment of white audiences who cluck their tongues sympathetically at black crises on stage and then do nothing about it in real life. Along the way, he makes withering fun of a black family whose "brow is heavy with three hundred years of oppression" and whose dreams are mere "middle-class aspirations." There remains the feeling that Hansberry has taken upon her shoulders the entire burden of the African-American experience, from slave ships to civil rights, and the script stumbles in this regard with some of the supporting characters. Beneatha's suitors--rich, superficial George (Luis LaPorte, Jr.) and wise, upright African Asagai (Nathan Hinton)--seem written more to make a point than to live as fully realized men onstage.
But "middle-class aspirations" are the most fragile, touchingly human part of the Youngers, and since many black Americans still struggle for economic parity decades after achieving legal equality, Hansberry's drama may remain relevant for a long time to come.
A Raisin in the Sun runs through February 14. Call (214) 522-TIXX.
A talented young crew of performers, who have past associations with Fort Worth's Stage West, have returned to that University Drive theater in a second incarnation--Moonwater Theatre Company. The first identity of a group that includes Jakie Cabe, Deborah Kirby, and Chuck Huber was Fuzzy Logic, a late-night improvisational troupe whose performers claimed in the press material to have created a new kind of theater. If you have to be told that, you can't help but be suspicious of it. My schedule didn't permit me to see Fuzzy Logic, but I can vouch that the newly christened Moonwater has conjured up an entertaining, sometimes eerie adaptation of Euripides' Medea that never takes itself as seriously as some will probably insist it should.
The Greek legend of the sorceress who murders her own children to spite seafaring hubby Jason after he throws her away for a sweet young thing with ties to the throne has had many incarnations throughout the centuries--the last three years alone have seen an indie flick called Mama Medea, set on the rough streets of Chicago, and Medea: The Musical, a backstage comedy suffused with gay humor that has played long runs on the West Coast. Hell, Euripides himself was tinkering with someone else's material when he--a cave-dwelling misanthrope who eschewed civic and religious duty, as some historians claim--scribbled Medea back in 431 B.C.
Moonwater Theatre Company took the man's script, and through rehearsals heavily affected by these artists' affinity for improvisation, came up with a deliberately anachronistic production that mixes not only chunks of Euripides' original text with newly written passages but also invests Corinth, the kingdom where Medea and Jason's tragedy unfolds, with some pretty contemporary amenities like nightclubs, tabloid reporters, and '60s-style British folk singers.
Indeed, we get a good early explanation of why proud Medea (a crisp and bold Deborah Kirby) spins so out of control: When Jason (Chuck Huber) leaves her for the daughter (Dawn Swearingen) of the king (Jakie Cabe, who also directed the show); it's an instant headline on every TV station and sidewalk newsstand. Ditto the decision by the king to banish Medea and her two sons out of fear. Her reputation for homicidal magic, used against her own father and brother, preceded her to Corinth. After securing refuge in Athens with touring singer-songwriter Aegeus (Chuck M. Jackson), she sets out to destroy what her enemies, Jason and the king, hold most dear.
Moonwater's Medea has some exciting scenes, such as a confrontation between the title character and Jason at a nightclub in which she enchants the other patrons, causing them to echo her recriminations against Jason. Nice, too, is the restraint displayed by these actors when turning into the kind of stock characters that improvisation summons: Medea's lawyer has a James Carville-ish Southern accent, her savior Aegeus a stoned Brit's drawl. Jackson, who plays both characters, doesn't throttle us with his dead-on impressions. Similarly, Cabe emerges as a Texas-twanged preacher delivering a sermon on the woes of parenting. The audience laughed at first, but the sincerity with which Cabe spoke abruptly brought us back to the gravity of the themes, and we were moved. Big moments and little touches like these don't add up to an especially profound Medea, but they do offer a splashy, comic-book rendering of a literary warhorse.
Medea runs through February 6. Call (817)
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