Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is as quintessential an American play as English class staples like A Streetcar Named Desire or Death of a Salesman. On March 8, Denzel Washington hits the Broadway stage in the role of Walter Younger (made most famous by Sidney Poitier 55 years ago) opposite LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Anika Noni Rose and Sophie Okonedo. On break from rehearsals, Washington shared some choice words with EBONY.com’s Miles Marshall Lewis on his very first exposure to the play, and how its 1959 issues resonate in 2014.

A Raisin in the Sun opens in previews on March 8 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York City. Opening officially April 3, the production runs until June 15.