Neither the cool, crisp evening air, the song of 1000 cicadas nor the flittering about of the occasional night flyer diminished the tension outside 1727 Bedford Ave., the childhood home of August Wilson, where the Pittsburgh Playwright Company made history by raising “Seven Guitars.”
By the play start time, the yard became a theatrical house and it was packed. In true August Wilson form, it was a lengthy play that no one seemed to mind as the magic spell created by perfect performances, a live chicken sitting under the fence, and the intermittent wail of a rooster kept the audience wrapped up and tucked in for the night.
Once again, stand out performances include Jonathan Berry as the dual natured Floyd “School Boy” Barton, a frustrated musician seeking to get back to Chicago in response to request from a recording studio to cut another record, and Kevin Brown who never disappoints as Kanewell, the man whose whimsical information-filled banter was unrelenting. He was rhythmic and highly credible as the would be manager of the artist. They made the audience glad they were on hand for this production.
Realism undergirded the poetic by true to life dialogue that flew rapidly among Floyd and his circle of friends. The non-stop discussions of life, biblical references (for which Wilson is known for) that came with the metaphysical musings of Hedley, stunningly played by Wali Jamal who owned this role, along with sounds of the blues spilling out of each house, filled each scene with a rich authenticity.”
The women in the production, Vera, Floyd’s love interest, played by Ty Barrow, and Louise, the rental manager of the two properties, played by Teri Bridgett, succeeded in bringing that special brand of feminism that Wilson’s female character’s embrace; tough, resilient, not diminished by the pain they’ve known and still vulnerable in the right places. This included Louise’s visiting niece Ruby, played by Jamilah Chanie. She was on point as an enchantress who came to town with her own agenda to complete. Bridgett’s seasoned flair gave sticking credibility to Louise, and both, Barrow and Chanie were convincing in conveying who “Wilson” called them to be.”
Energy surged in the second act; Leslie Ezra Smith as drummer friend Red Carter, brought some of that energy as a drum does in a band. It was amazing to watch how director Mark Clayton Southers took a Pittsburgh treasure, an August Wilson play, raised it in the yard of the author’s home, which is going to became a true treasure in Pittsburgh, and matched it with powerful dialogue from performers who form a Pittsburgh treasury of talent. He turned it into a night of power packed multi-dimensional theater as only August Wilson has created.
One more weekend to see it, two matinees left; do yourself a favor and make one of these times work for you.
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