PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: A Raisin in the Sun — Deferring Denzel's Dream

By Harry Haun
04 Apr 2014

LaTanya Richardson Jackson
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
"I love women who are thinking of their children and someone else's well-being. That's who Lena is. She's constantly in the service of her family and her community."

She brings Claudia McNeil's imposing presence and vocal bearing to the role. "I'm crazy enough to have a good time with this because it's quite a lot to bite off and chew, but I have such great support from Denzel and the director, and this is the company of dreams. They're wonderful. Stephen McKinley Henderson — he sets our bar."

Henderson, who provided Tony-nominated support for Washington in Fences, here is the emissary of bad news — that Walter Lee has been swindled out of the family savings — and, although it's a mercifully short scene, he plays most of it in tears, casting a heavy dark cloud over the play.

The last time Henderson was in A Raisin in the Sun he played, because of the lightness of his skin, Karl Lindner, the bigoted white representing the Clybourne Park Improvement Committee trying to buy back the Youngers' home.

Lindner, the prissy, priggish hypocrite who recently surfaced in Bruce Norris' Pulitzer Prize-winning play Clybourne Park and was played by Jeremy Shamos, was originally played by John Fielder, the voice of Winnie the Pooh. In this production, he's played by David Cromer, taking a temporary break from stage directing.

"I started out as an actor," he said. "I've been an actor all my life, and I moved into directing many years ago and did mostly that, but I would always go back and act occasionally. And I was just very, very, very burned out directing — I was really just running on fumes, and I had an opportunity to do two things in a row acting — I did The Normal Heart in Chicago and then I came into this, and it's been really nice. I'm not so burned out that I want to leave my profession, but it was good to visit the other side again to find out where I can be better at communicating with people to remember what actors need."