photo: Carol Rosegg
What a surprise: the late August Wilson's last play is also one of his most accessible and brisk, a sharply observed, entertaining drama that pointedly questions the price of African-American success by assimilation. Its story, of a mayoral candidate who becomes increasingly uneasy with what it takes to push through a neigborhood redevelopment plan, is set ten years ago, but its themes and its keen social observations are immediate and relevant: the audience I saw it with was very much engaged and vocal, clearly taking sides in the play's climactic showdown. The play is slick and focused in a way that other Wilson plays are not (I could easily see this play reaching an audience that hasn't warmed before to his plays) and it's less prosey and dense, but that is unquestionably by design and part of the point considering the themes. It isn't quintessential Wilson, but it's a tight, swiftly intelligent play (directed here with snap and punch by Kenny Leon) that bears his unmistakable mark nonetheless. Four of the five in the cast are excellent at this point (a week into previews) and the one tentative performance is likely to fit right in once the play officially opens. It's hard for me to imagine that this will not be among the four nominees for Best Play at this year's Tonys.