Thursday, May 9, 2013


“Having found his song, the song of self-sufficiency, fully resurrected, cleansed and given breath, free from any encumbrance other than the workings of his own heart and the bonds of the flesh, having accepted the responsibility for his own presence in the world, he is free to soar above the environs that weighed and pushed his spirit into terrifying contractions." These, the last lines of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, August Wilson’s declaration through the character of Bynum Walker (amazing Glynn Turman) shouting after Herald Loomis who has exploded into his own at the close of the play reflect the theme of independence.  Wilson addresses the emergence of the down trodden black man from both the literal and metaphoric shackles that have held him prisoner because of the misfortune of his social position.  The poetry of the author and its expert interpretation by director, Phylicia Reshad and her cast delivers well.

It’s 1911 Pittsburgh where Wilson sets the second play in his Century Cycle.  Echoes of slavery are still abroad, though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued over fifty years before.  Black folks are still under the oppressive thumb of white folks as they struggle for equality.  Joe Turner, the fabled brother of the governor of Tennessee, has a reputation for indiscriminately swooping down on blacks and commandeering them on his chain gang.  Herald Loomis (imposing John Douglas Thompson) has been the victim of Turner’s exploitation for seven long years.    
At rise Seth Holly (powerful Keith David) runs a boarding house with his exuberant wife, Bertha (Gorgeous Lillias White who stops the show with Love and Laughter in the second act) in the Hill District of Pittsburgh.  Seth peers out the back door at the mystical Bynum Walker as he performs his odd religio-spiritual practices.  Bynum is a ‘binder’ who learned binding from his daddy. He has the ability to bind together folks who desire to be bound.  Cricket S. Myers’ blues oriented interstitial music binds the scenes together as the hot August days roll by. John Iacovelli’s period set allows Reshad to easily paint stage pictures allowing the souls of the Wilson’s characters come to life.

Impressive performances by the two kids in the cast, Skye Barrett as Zonnia Loomis and flirty little Nathaniel James Potvin as Reuben Mercer reflect the desires of the adults in the story.  Seeing young actors hold their own with the language of the play is a pleasure. 

Loomis’s strange behavior makes Mr. Holly uneasy, but the two dollars rent for the week makes him acquiesce to Loomis (who is seeking his wife and mother of daughter Zonnia).  Bertha soothes his ruffled feathers.  Arrival of beautiful Mattie Campbell (January LaVoy) immediately attracts the attention of the Holly’s friend, young Gabriel Brown (Jeremy Furlow). Ruthorford Selig (the familiar face of Raynor Scheine) is the only white man in the show: a sympathetic friend who buys pots and pans and other metal things from Seth.  The steamy Molly Cunningham (vivacious Vivian Nixon), the kind of woman who really needs no protection, vamps Herald, who, after years in isolation on the chain gang no longer has the ability to touch.  Being out of touch may be another metaphor for the struggle of African Americans in August Wilson’s canon.  

At last Herald’s long lost wife, Martha Pentecost (petite Erica Tazel), appears and in an amazing spiritual duel with Herald,   builds to the fiery climax.

As in other Wilson plays, characters wear their hearts on their sleeves through the poetry of this prolific playwright who has come and gone too soon. 

By August Wilson
Opens May 8, 2013
Continues through June 9

Mark Taper Forum
Performance Days and Times:
• Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.
• Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
• Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
• No performance on Mondays.
EXCEPTIONS: No public performances May 21 – 24 (student matinees only.)
No 1 p.m. performance on Sunday, May 5.
Ticket Prices: $20 – $70 (Ticket prices are subject to change.)
Tickets are available:
• Online at
• By calling Center Theatre Group Audience Services at 213.628.2772
• In person at the Center Theatre Group box office at the Music Center

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