RED BANK: A CURTAIN-RAISIN’ FREE BBQ

Red Bank’s own blues specialist Gary Wright takes it to the Two River Theater on Thursday for a “block party” previewing the upcoming production of ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’ (Photo by Terri Walliczek.)

When the folks at Two River Theater Company launch a new slate of mainstage shows next month, they’ll be bringing in the 2017-2018 season with a fresh look at a genuine American classic — A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 drama of a black Chicago family’s struggle to achieve their dreams.

Before the “raisin” of the curtain, however, the Red Bank institution will be raisin’ the roof this Thursday evening with a community “block party,” a public-welcome affair that boasts live music, dancing, food and a a meet-and-greet opportunity with cast members from the show that opens officially on September 15.

Scheduled for 6 p.m., the party will be hosted outdoors on the Edmund Wilson Plaza patio area at the theater’s north-facing side — scene of the community party that kicked off the most recent edition of TRTC’s annual Crossing Borders Festival. Attendees will enjoy a sampling of savory stuff from area restaurants and caterers that include M&J Texas BBQ, as well as a chance to enter a raffle for free tickets to an upcoming performance of Raisin.

Playing a limited engagement that continues through October 8, the season-opening production represents Two River’s first-ever take on the ensemble drama that TRTC artistic director John Dias says is “in the canon of the world’s greatest plays ever written.”

Starring is Obie winner and Tony nominee Brandon J. Dirden, an electrifying talent who’s become a regular presence in Red Bank as both actor (Top Dog/Underdog, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and director (Seven Guitars) even as he’s built a solid career on Broadway (All the Way) and television (The Americans). Joining Dirden in the cast is his wife, actress Crystal Dickinson — as well as his father, veteran character actor Willie Dirden — under the direction of Carl Cofield.

The block party offers up a too-rare opportunity to catch Red Bank-based blues and roots singer-guitarist Gary Wright in a hometown performance. A familiar and formidable presence at out-of-doors festivals (and a frequent sitting-in partner with reggae masters the Predator Dub Assassins), the former co-frontman of Terraplane Blues keeps the legacy of the earliest blues recording artists alive, as noted in a 2013 interview here on redbankgreen.

There’s no charge to attend the block party, but reservations are recommended, and can be made by calling the box office at (732) 345-1400, or taking it here to RSVP. In the event of inclement weather, the action moves indoors to the Two River building lobby — so check Two River Theater’s social media manifestations for updates, and check back to redbankgreen for more on TRTC’s production of A Raisin in the Sun.