"Heart-stopping," "a Broadway bull's-eye" and "nothing short
of revelatory" are just a few of the accolades used to describe
director Kenny Leon's production, which opened on Thursday at
the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
"It captures the play's passion, pathos and intelligence,
without stinting on Hansberry's dry humor," the New York Post
Hansberry's story about a struggling African-American family
seeking a better life after inheriting a windfall was the first
play written by an African-American woman to be produced on
Washington, 59, plays an ambitious chauffeur with big dreams of
success but no business acumen to achieve it.
"Reprising Sidney Poitier's role, Washington is stunning as the
dreamer-schemer Walter Lee Younger, whose frustration throbs at
the heart of an American classic that is as deeply humorous as
it is affecting," said the New York Daily News.
Trade magazine Variety described Washington's performance as a
"triumph," while the New York Post said he was "incredibly
Although the Academy Award winner for the 2001 crime drama
"Training Day" and the 1989 Civil War film "Glory" is nearly 25
years older than Hansberry's original Walter, his energy and
exuberance on stage is convincing.
"The performance is a personal triumph for Washington, who
refrains from star-strutting to fold himself into a tight-knit
ensemble of committed stage thesps who treat this revival like a
labor of love," Variety said.
This was not Washington's first successful foray on Broadway;
the actor picked up a Tony Award in 2010 for "Fences."
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Washington leads an all-star cast that includes LaTanya
Richardson Jackson ("Malcolm X," "Sleepless in Seattle) as his
mother Lena, the strong, loving matriarch of the family.
British actress Sophie Okonedo, a best supporting Oscar nominee
in 2005 for "Hotel Rwanda," makes her Broadway debut as his
devoted wife, Ruth. Anika Noni Rose ("Dreamgirls" and "For
Colored Girls" is his younger, intellectual sister Beneatha, a
college student with dreams of attending medical school.
"LaTanya Richardson Jackson shows us the wit and grit that have
sustained Lena; Sophie Okonedo, likewise, conveys Ruth's weariness
and resilience to heart-wrenching effect," said USA Today.
The New York Times added: "Ms. Rose stands out as a revelatory
Although Washington is the star attraction, the Hollywood Reporter
credits the ensemble cast for giving the revival its authentic
"The warmth as well as the frictions and frustrations of a real
family ripple through this lived-in production, with an accomplished
cast that nestles deep into every moment of humor, hope and
sadness," it said.
Hansberry was the first African-American playwright to win the New
York Drama Critics' Circle Award. She died of pancreatic cancer in
1965 at the age of 34.
(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; editing by Lisa Von Ahn)
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