When: Through Sept. 22
Where: Tennessee Repertory Theatre
A favorite fictional subgenre is a familiar work retold or embellished from a supporting player’s viewpoint, whether it’s Hamlet as the tragicomedy of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Wizard of Oz as the literal witch hunt of Wicked, or Jane Eyre as the bitter fate of its “madwoman in the attic” in Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea. Add to this roster Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, one of the season’s theatrical events, arriving on the local stage just months after its Broadway debut.
Act I takes place in 1959 in a white middle-class Chicago neighborhood; Act II revisits that neighborhood 50 years later, in 2009. Something rather important is elided in between: the events of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic A Raisin in the Sun, about the black family trying to purchase the very house where Norris sets the action.
Winner of the 2012 Tony for best drama, Norris’ script lays into prejudice, racial entitlement and class resentment with lacerating humor, and audiences have responded with gasps, shocked laughter and rage. (A New York Times story about the Broadway staging reported that one of the biggest challenges facing the cast was keeping viewers from hating Norris’ most clueless characters.) In the play’s Tennessee premiere, which debuted on Saturday, René Copeland directs a first-rate cast that includes Nate Eppler, Shannon Hoppe, Tony Morton, Shelean Newman, Eric D. Pasto-Crosby, Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva and Derek Whittaker.