By Sam Tarr
March 12 2017: The Massasoit Tribune
In the director’s note to the audience, Corrine Mason described a brainstorming session she had with Massasoit Fine Arts Coordinator Mark Rocheteau. While discussing ideas for the upcoming Student Ensemble Production, Rocheteau proposed A Raisin in the Sun as an “ideal project.” Mason agreed.
“I immediately jumped at the opportunity to direct this iconic play,” Mason said in the note.
Their collective enthusiasm was rightly justified.
In large part, due to a perfectly cast ensemble, those fortunate enough to have been in attendance for Saturday afternoon’s 3 pm matinee at the Buckley Performing Arts Center saw quite a show. It was nothing short of the finest Massasoit performance in recent memory.
It was fascinating to see just how well Lorraine Hansberry’s timeless classic holds up.
It was remarkable watching Walter Lee tell his sister, who wants to become a doctor, to instead “go be a nurse like other women.” It made you think knowing that just days prior, women were taking to the streets in nationwide demonstrations battling the kind of gender inequality presented here.
Also, to an unfortunate degree. Some of Hansberry’s themes hold up a bit too well in these modern times. Karl Linder, representing the all-white neighborhood the Youngers plan on desegregating, feigns outreach in a way far too reminiscent of some prominent politicians.
Walter Lee and his sister Beneatha, at different points, drown in the despair of a world increasingly unjust, absurd, and stacked against them. It is, unfortunately, a feeling undoubtedly still being shared throughout minority communities today.
Though the play itself is extraordinary, it was Corrine Mason’s superb cast, executing to perfection, which brought theatergoers out of their seats.
Thewa iconic role of Walter Lee Younger was played excellently by Keion Lugay, in a fantastic debut role that could have passed for that of a seasoned veteran. Lugay had the audience laughing with Walter Lee’s drunken antics, and frozen with the ferocity of the more dramatic scenes.
It was the trio of leading ladies, however, that stole the show.
Massasoit sophomore Ariel Wigfall started out at the college taking classes in the Liberal Arts Science program. Thankfully she was cured of that notion and is now pursuing what is clearly her true passion as a Theatre Major. It is evident, after another stellar performance, she made the right decision.
Wigfall, coming off an appearance in A Christmas Carol, and an impressive performance in Macbeth, inhabited the role of Beneatha Younger, Walter Lee’s younger sister. Nobody seemed more comfortable and made for the stage as Wigfall, who still stood out amongst all the other strong performances. She is surely someone to keep an eye on.
In her second Massasoit production, Dayja Morgan hit it out of the park as the Younger family matriarch Lena. Morgan showed great range getting the biggest laughs of the evening while modeling her gardening hat, right before delivering some of the most dramatic and iconic lines of the whole play. It was a strikingly authentic performance.
Rounding out the leads was a charming, wonderfully understated performance from Amber Smith, as Ruth Younger. Smith was a natural for the role and carried it out effortlessly.
The entirety of the cast had serious depth, and an array of talented actors supported the lead roles. Theo Victoria’s Joseph Asagai (AH-SA-GUY!) supplied the ingredients for great chemistry and tension opposite Wigfall’s Beneatha. Joey Siciliano Jr. played Karl Lindner with just the right amount of slime.
Not to be left out was the short but impactful appearance from Napoleon Soares’ Bobo. Soares balanced his character’s shame, remorse, and fear as he delivered the bad news to Walter Lee during the heartbreaking climax.
Some plays, like A Raisin in the Sun, will always have a relevant place due to their universal themes and great characters. As they say, though, timing is everything. And this great cast, led by Corrine Mason, came together at the perfect time to create a truly exceptional rendition of this classic.
It was another success for the Massasoit Theatre department, which seems to be gaining momentum with every production.