The Colored Museum

by George C. Wolfe

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How does "The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play" respond to A Raisin in the Sun?

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George C. Wolfe's “The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play” is a satire of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, for it exaggerates Hansberry's characters and themes in an attempt to show the stereotypes inherent in Hansberry's play.

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“The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play” is an episode in George C. Wolfe's The Colored Museum. It is primarily a satire of Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun, and Wolfe's characters are all high-strung exaggerations of the Younger family in Hansberry's play.

Mama in Wolfe's satire is overly dramatic. She exhibits authority over her son but not the gentle, tolerant authority of Mama in Hansberry's play. Wolfe's Mama merely insists that her son wipe his feet. Wolfe seems to be suggesting that this kind of religious Mama is ineffectual and outdated.

Walter-Lee-Beau-Willie-Jones (notice the satire with the multiple names), in Wolfe's play takes Walter Lee Younger's angst from A Raisin in the Sun and dials it up about a hundred notches. The Son in Wolfe's play rails against the Man, who keeps him oppressed. Meanwhile, the Son's wife, the Lady in Plaid, is not much like Ruth Younger at all, for she screams dramatically about her babies and refuses to get her husband's supper.

Medea Jones, Mama's daughter in Wolfe's play, has something in common with Beneatha in A Raisin in the Sun, yet she, too, is highly exaggerated in her “educated” way of talking and in her renunciation of race and religion. She goes further than Beneatha ever does.

Wolfe's play ends in a strange musical number in Broadway style in which Mama laments that they weren't born into an “all-black show” where everyone dances and smiles. The whole play is an odd exaggeration of stereotypical references about African Americans that is meant to reveal the ridiculousness of such stereotypes and perhaps, at the same time, suggest that Hansberry has fallen prey to those very stereotypes in A Raisin in the Sun.

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