August Wilson’s Jitney
August Wilson is rightly celebrated for his wordsmithing —or maybe word-weaving would be better, or word-spinning. It’s not so much the occasional pronouncements (“Time go along, and then it come around”), some of which verge into greeting-card territory (“I don’t have all the answers; I don’t even have all the questions; but I do know it takes two to find them”). It’s the tumbling and piling and sidewinding, as when a busybody slips and slides around everybody’s insistence that he keep his mouth shut and mind his own business, or the punching and counter-punching, as when a father and son confront each other about the violent act that sundered their relationship. But what makes director Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s revival hum and throb are the voices that deliver those words, and the bodies that house those voices. Even the broken ones have power, and the ones that aren’t broken positively fill the ear. It’s well worth listening to them work Wilson’s words, even if it’s not a perfect play — it loses considerable steam after the first act’s thundering conclusion, and there’s a bit of officina ex machina brought in to set up the story's resolution. But it is a nearly perfect cast, starting with Steven Anthony Jones as Becker, owner of a jitney car service in a part of late-‘70s Pittsburgh that’s slated for urban renewal. (Read: they’re gonna tear down his place of business. On top of that, his drivers are getting into trouble with booze and women, and his son’s just been released after 20 years in prison.) Becker is a cracked pillar of the community; a man who did everything right and suffered everything well in order to build a life for himself and a future for his family. (It’s fascinating to hear black characters who are up against city hall utter what might today be considered conservative talking points, e.g., “Shake off that ‘White folks are against me’ attitude; the opportunity is there to make something of yourself.”) There is still strength in his thick frame and commanding speech, but the years and their sorrows hang about him the way inevitable decay hangs about his jitney station, exquisitely rendered by David Gallo and cleverly lit by Jane Cox. — M.L.
Ongoing until Sunday, February 23, 2020
|Sundays, 2pm & 7pm|
|Saturdays, 2pm & 8pm|