Nestruck on Theatre
 

July 10, 2020

 
Theatre online this week: An unfinished Lorraine Hansberry play is given a polish by Montreal’s Yaël Farber
 

JOHAN PERSSON/Johan Persson/National Theatre

Theatre online this week: An unfinished Lorraine Hansberry play is given a polish by Montreal’s Yaël Farber
 

J. Kelly Nestruck

It remains a major theatrical tragedy that Lorraine Hansberry died of pancreatic cancer at age 34 in 1965, less than six years after A Raisin in the Sun premiered on Broadway – and the question is often asked: What other classics might she have written if she had lived longer?

 
But the great Black American writer did, in fact, leave behind other plays, finished and unfinished. In 2016, the National Theatre of Great Britain produced a new version of Hansberry’s posthumously premiered play Les Blancs, a critique of colonialism set in a fictional African country on the brink of civil war, and it received great reviews.

 
A well-filmed archive recording of Les Blancs is streaming on YouTube until Thursday – featuring a tremendous performance by Danny Sapani as a man who returns home from Europe to bury his father.

 
The director of the production in question is Yaël Farber, the Canada-based South African theatre artist who was head of the directing program at the National Theatre School of Canada for several years. In a New York Times article, she explained how she, dramaturge Drew Lichtenberg and Joi Gresham of the Lorraine Hansberry Literary Trust met up in Montreal to rework the play from the drafts Hansberry left behind.

 
“I felt that I was given something that was like a child being born at the moment of its mother’s death,” Farber told The Times. “You see in Les Blancs that [Hansberry] is reaching for something more expressionistic, something that engages with something that perhaps Europe was having a reckoning with in its theatre at the time.”

 
 
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Nestruck on Theatre, written by Globe theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck, is delivered every Tuesday.

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