amBroadway | ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ takes aggressive direction, ‘Disney on Ice’ returns and more

Mandi Masden, Tonya Pinkins, and Toussaint Battiste in The Public Theater revival of “A Raisin in the Sun.”
Photo credit: Joan Marcus

‘Raisin’ at Public Theater hampered by aggressive direction

The Public Theater is not really known for revivals – at least of plays not written by William Shakespeare. Nevertheless, a major attraction of its fall season is a new production of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” directed by Robert O’Hara, who is known for experimental work. This is decidedly different than the two productions of “Raisin” in New York, which played Broadway, had major stars, and were staged in a straightforward manner.

Nowadays, there is little doubt that “Raisin” is one of the greatest American dramas. Hansberry herself, who died at the age of 34, has also achieved greater cultural recognition in recent years, as demonstrated by a 2017 documentary (“Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart”), attention paid to her lesser-known plays (including “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window,” which will be produced at BAM in February), and a life-size statue of her that has toured Times Square and Astor Place.

O’Hara, whose recent Shakespeare in the Park production of “Richard III” (which incorporated diverse and inclusive casting) proved to be unwieldy and dramatically inert, is not much more successful with “Raisin.” His heavy-handed direction relies on surprise and shock value (involving violence, sex, minstrelsy, and a ghost), which ultimately detracts from the power of the play itself.

That being said, the cast (which includes Tonya Pinkins, Francois Battiste, Mandi Masden, and Paige Gilbert) is strong, and it is fitting to have the play around at a time when works by two other major Black dramatists, August Wilson and Suzan-Lori Parks, are also being revived.

Eddie Izzard to perform one-man version of ‘Great Expectations’

It is not unusual to find multiple productions of “A Christmas Carol” playing New York during the holidays, including one-man adaptations, such as the one with Jefferson Mays on Broadway. However, this year, there will also be a one-man version of another Charles Dickens classic, “Great Expectations,” starring no less than Eddie Izzard, which will play Off-Broadway’s Greenwich House Theater beginning Dec. 9. “I find the combination of Eddie Izzard’s idiosyncratic wit and Charles Dickens’ ingenious storytelling irresistible,” director Selina Cadell said in a statement.

In other casting news, Katie Holmes will appear in “The Wanderers,” a new play by Anna Ziegler, will be produced Off-Broadway by the Roundabout Theatre Company…Nathan Lane, Danny Burstein, and Zoë Wanamaker will lead Sharr White’s “Pictures from Home,” based on a photo memoir by Larry Sultan, at Studio 54…Isaac Mizrahi will play Amos in “Chicago” for three weeks beginning Nov. 7.

‘Disney on Ice’ returns with both ‘Frozen’ and ‘Encanto’

”Disney on Ice” will return to the area this week with a double bill of “Frozen” and “Encanto,” which will play Newark’s Prudential Center from Nov. 2 to 6. Expect to hear the entire audience singing along to “Let It Go” and “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” in the midst of the ice skating and aerial acts. In January, another “Disney on Ice” show, “Into the Magic,” will play both Newark and Brooklyn.