When you know your people, when you are so in tune with how they speak, how they react and interact (or not) with one another; when you have something important to say with compassion, insight and humor that is timeless and timely in a play called JITNEY you are Mr. August Wilson.
When the direction is so finely tuned and detailed down to the almost choreographed entrances and exits of its characters who become living and breathing friends – friends that you care for and hope that they will obtain a good and better life you are Mr. Ruben Santiago-Hudson.
And when after the first act curtain the audience has that extra special buzz, a buzz that signals the audience is hooked and wants to know what is going to happen to these people you know that you are seeing something rare and special and should cheer and shout and send one and all to see it.
Set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District circa 1977 we meet a collection of characters that Mr. Wilson has a fondness for and knows deep down inside and out. He shares their stories with us. Bringing us in with their idiosyncrasies, their desires and dreams in JITNEY which has recently opened at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre – a Manhattan Theatre Club production that soars and stays with you long after the curtain comes down.
It’s a “car service” overseen and owned by Becker (John Douglas Thompson) in a run-down dump beautifully rendered by David Gallo. It is a second home to those who work there. A gathering place where his drivers wait for calls, play checkers, read girlie magazines, share neighborhood gossip and dream of a better life. And play the numbers with Shealy (Harvy Blanks).
There is the outstanding busy-body Turnbo (Michael Potts) who can’t seem to mind his own business – much to our amusement. The inebriated and wobbly but wise Fielding (Anthony Chisholm). Youngblood (Andre Holland) a sexy dude who has a suspicious wife (Carra Patterson) and baby who secretly surprises her with a special gift. And Booster (Brandon J. Dirden) the son of Becker who has just been released from prison. They haven’t seen each other for twenty years and are estranged.
And then there is the sword of Damocles over Backer and Company’s collective heads. The city wants to close their business for some badly needed urban renewal. Will they fight and stay? Or give up. Where will they go? What will they do?
Will father and son have a peaceful reconciliation?
Will you all just go and see JITNEY and find out. You will not be disappointed. This is about the finest production you will see this season. You will be entertained and moved by the terrific acting of this ensemble of fine actors. And want to hear more of the jazz score that sets the mood precisely by Bill Simms Jr.
Let’s hear it for August Wilson and Company! Highly recommended. Through March 12th
Photos: Joan Marcus
Tags: 1 Comment