Has it really been nearly two years since Death of a Salesman at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater? After attending that production I wrote a blog titled Death of a Theater Phobia. My blog described how I had soured on live theater after attending a number of performances that had me checking my watch and counting the minutes until the show was over (I'm blaming musicals), but Salessman was so expertly acted and riveting that I had no idea how long I sat in the theater. It could have been 20 minutes or 200 -- time stood still as I watched the ticking human time bomb, Willy Loman.
Raisin in the Sun at the Quadracci Powerhouse. It was equally powerful.
Going in, I had no idea what the play was about. As the day of the show grew nearer, I resisted temptation to read a synopsis of the story, and when I navigated to the Milwaukee Repertory Theater's website to check the exact showtime, I guided my eyes only to the schedule to avoid seeing too much of the story.
It's rather embarrassing that I was so naive of a story that has been played out in countless American theaters and silver screens -- the latter starring Oscar winner Sidney Portier as irascible dreamer Walter Lee Younger.
But my persistence to remain ignorant paid off. Walking into the Powerhouse, neither my wife nor I had a clue of what about we were about to see. We were about to be blown away.
The play was two hours and 55 minutes long with an intermission about halfway through. Much like Salesman, time flew by. The moments before intermission reached a crescendo and when the houselights were turned on, my eyes were watery from emotion and all I could do was look over at my wife and say, "Wow."
After a short break we settled back into our seats for the second half. The next hour and 15 minutes went by in a blink. I was riveted. My heart pounded as the story came to its emotional climax when Walter finally becomes the man that his mother always believed was within him.
And speaking of mother, Lena Younger played by Greta Oglesby was a showstopper. She was amazing. When the show ended and the players came out to take their bows, I could hardly wait until Ms. Oglesby appeared. I was already standing and clapping enthusiastically when she did, but how does one show the love when everyone else is clapping and standing too?
When I was 6 or 7, my Grandpa Collins taught me to take my two pinky fingers and curl over my tongue and blow. When done correctly, it makes a piercing noise like the whistle atop the ill-fated locomotive Old 97. To experienced theatergoers, us whistle blowers are probably as uncouth and annoying as the guys who always yell "IN THE HOLE!" during televised golf tournaments.
When Greta appeared, I inhaled deeply, properly placed my pinkies between my curled-lip covered teeth and exhaled with great force. I may have been in the second row from the back, but I'm quite certain Ms. Oglesby could feel the love, as my siren whistle took the curls right out of the lady's hair in front of me.
Ms. Oglesby's performance was worth every decibel. The whole casts' was.
Raisin in the Sun runs through April 14th. I highly suggest you go. It's a wonderful performance. Just hopefully you're not sitting in front of some obnoxious whistle-blower at show's end. ;)