Denzel Washington, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, and Anika Noni Rose shine in revival of A Raisin in the Sun.
Everyone’s moaning about Denzel Washington’s age: How can a man who’s 59 play the 35-year-old Walter Lee Younger in A Raisin in the Sun, a character whose very name suggests the drama of coming into manhood? And if Walter’s that old, how can his mother, Lena, be played by an actress — LaTanya Richardson Jackson — who is just 64? Did she give birth to him as a tot?
Well, none of that matters. If anything, Washington comes off as no more mature than his character’s pre-adolescent son. His Walter has the caught-in-a-trap itchiness of a teenager. He doesn’t walk but rolls into a room, his loosey-goosey limbs desperately insinuating a joie de vivre his actual living lacks. (He’s a chauffeur.) Washington has always been a very physical actor, locating the essence of a role in his body and in the music of the words, when he could get his mouth around them. (Not so much in Julius Caesar.) Here, in the second Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic, he’s almost dancing the part, especially in a priceless drunk scene that ends with his burlesquing Black minstrelsy and all but singing “Mammy.” Even without reference to the previous Broadway Walter — a stuporous Sean Combs — this is an electric performance; you forget about the actor’s age as quickly as you forget, in most plays that are cast color-blind, about race.