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Sunday, June 24, 2012

JITNEY: A BUMPY RIDE


Larry Bates, Charlie Robinson & Ellis E. Williams in August Wilson's "Jitney
 Photo: Henry DiRocco. 

August Wilson’s Jitney arrives at the Pasadena Playhouse from South Coast Repertory Theatre  shucking and jiving with a slightly disco beat as the playwright discusses Pittsburgh in the seventies.   Becker (spot on Charlie Robinson) runs a jitney station:  gypsy cabs that ferry locals in the black community where licensed cabs won’t go.  The pay phone rings.. and rings.. and rings and someone, whose turn it is to drive answers “Car Service.” 

Wilson has garnered acclaim for his personal and well written examinations of working class folks who are, coincidentally, African American.  Jitney discusses generations  of characters whom we come to truly appreciate. We sympathize, empathize and laugh, to find our hearts engaged as the plot works out conflict and love, separation and reunion.  Ellis E. Williams as Turnbo gets up into everybody’s ‘bizniss’.  Meddling for a guy like this is inevitable.  Generations of working class Americans are represented here. They're just trying to make a go of life in a little business that is about to be shut down to Urban Renewal, but not if Becker has his way.  Tired of being pushed around by the establishment, the men band together, in spite of some major personality conflicts to keep their jitney station going.


Shaun Motley’s functional set design is perfectly fine.  Trouble with fluorescent lights was a minor distraction in otherwise successful lighting by Brian J. Lillienthal.  Dana Rebecca Woods’ costumes from the seventies brought knowing chuckles from the audience. 

Director Ron OJ Parson keeps the action and intentions focused but at over two and a half hours, the Playhouse challenges the audience to struggle in their threadbare seats for way too long.  Opening night audience was in for the long haul, but the very real pain of the length of the show makes for less than a fun evening.  

Bring a pillow.

JITNEY by August Wilson
The Pasadena Playhouse
39 S. El Molino Avenue
Pasadena, CA
Through July 15, 2012
626 356 7529
$59.00 top
Rush Tickets One Hour before Curtain $15.00


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