PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 29-April 4: If/Then Opens and Raisin Receives Glowing Reviews

By Robert Simonson
04 Apr 2014

Denzel Washington
Photo by Brigitte Lacombe
The reviewers' positive reaction should help nudge the production into the latter category as well. "The show that opened Thursday night at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre is blistering, beautifully acted and superbly touching," declared AP. "Director Kenny Leon gets a second bite of the apple... and offers a throbbing, vibrant production that is a match for this 55-year-old American masterpiece. There's real humor here, too, both physical and scripted. Washington is startlingly good as Walter Lee Younger, the frustrated chauffeur and dreamer. He has the cadences and the trapped physicality in his bones — warm and loose until he's cold and volatile."

The Times, too, was impressed. "Mr. Washington's more laid-back approach has a persuasive emotional logic, and it adds a different kind of suspense to Raisin. As the play tells its familiar story of the Youngers' attempts to leave the South Side for the suburbs, with the life insurance money left by Lena's husband, we're less worried that Walter is going to erupt into violence than sink into stasis, dragging his family down with him." Added Wall Street Journal: "All that's visible is the finished product, a piece of storytelling as plain and true and beautiful as a well-laid brick wall." Nearly every other critic found the production balanced, vital and well-acted across the board.

The issue of Washington's advanced age was brought up in a number of reviews, but no one seemed to care much. Said AP: "The script says Washington is supposed to be 35 — the actor is 59 — but all that matters is a brilliant performance, funny and poignant."

***



Washington, DC's Arena Stage offered a significant opening this week, when Lawrence Wright's historical drama Camp David officially opened April 3 after previews that began March 21. Directed by artistic director Molly Smith, the production stars Ron Rifkin as Menachem Begin, Richard Thomas as Jimmy Carter, Hallie Foote as Rosalynn Carter and Egyptian actor and activist Khaled Nabawy as Anwar Sadat.

The play depicts the events surrounding the 1978 Camp David Accords that led to a historic peace agreement between Egypt and Israel which still stands today.

The Carters are the only characters depicted in the play who are still alive, and they attended the opening. Following the curtain call, the former President received more ovations than the actors.

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