Thursday, January 19, 2017


Due to some health issues, it has been two and a half months since I've seen a play--what a gift that the first one back was August Wilson's superb Jitney, beautifully directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

The story is simple, and painfully timely, even though it takes place in 1977: developers are taking over the neighborhood and ruining people's lives along the way. In Jitney, the location is a storefront car service in Pittsburgh. The people are, mostly, the cab drivers, each with his own story, needs, faults, and foibles. While simple descriptions of the characters (the drunk, the numbers runner, the young mother disappointed in her man) might sound like cliches or types, in Wilson's hands they are fully dimensional and heartbreakingly real. They are also great company.

The production is first-class. The set (David Gallo) manages to be both rundown and beautiful. The costumes (Toni-Leslie James) perfectly define the people, the place, and the time. The lighting (Jane Cox) is both beautifully polished and emotionally appropriate. And I want to give a particular shout-out to Darron L West for the sound design; even sitting two rows from the back wall of the mezzanine, I could hear every word, from shouts to whispers. Kudos also to Santiago-Hudson for somehow making those far-away seats feel intimate.

Photo: Wendy Caster

And the cast is amazing, with John Douglas Thompson the first among equals. As anyone who has seen him knows, he is one of the finest actors alive today. The rest of the cast: Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm, Brandon J. Dirden, André Holland, Carra Patterson, Michael Potts, Keith Randolph Smith, and Ray Anthony Thomas. The audience is in very good hands.

August Wilson was a great American playwright, and I hope a New York theatre soon decides to do his cycle of plays in chronological order.

Wendy Caster
(rush tickets, rear mezz)

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