Tom Gliatto and Liza Hamm
March 03, 2008 12:00 PM

ABC, Feb. 25, 8 p.m. ET |

DRAMA

With Barack Obama’s presidential campaign marking a racial milestone in American history, this adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s landmark 1959 play about a black Chicago family is well-timed. And the performers—most were in the recent Broadway revival—are near-perfect. Phylicia Rashad is Lena Younger, a cleaning lady whose family is caught up in dreams about how to use the $10,000 insurance check she’s expecting after her husband’s death. The money represents—delusively or not—the chance to escape the prejudice that grinds down their lives. Rashad and Audra McDonald (as her weary daughter-in-law, who takes in laundry) give rich, theatrical performances of operatic heft. The one problem: Sean Combs as Lena’s son Walter Lee, a chauffeur. He stands there, blinking, baby-faced, unable to leap into the actresses’ ring of fire. That doesn’t diminish this Raisin. (For more on McDonald, see page 36.)

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