The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe does sincere justice to the great August Wilson’s “Jitney,” which was written in 1979 and became part of what’s now known as his “Ten Play Cycle,” chronicling the lives of Black Americans through each decade of the 20th century.
Wilson lived from 1945 to 2005 and is celebrated for his slice-of-life style of storytelling. His dialogue perfectly reflects the period and the people, and what’s more, it is comical, dramatic and illuminating.
The decades following the Civil War only added insult to the injustice of slavery, due to discrimination and lack of work and of education, which has created unique problems for African Americans to this day.
Wilson’s plays provide subtle lessons within their ample entertainment value, aimed especially at the youth of black America, although their meaning is applicable to us all. This play is an excellent example of his skill.
Jim Weaver’s direction succeeds in creating a taut and convincing production. The term, jitney, applies to gypsy cabs, and an unlicensed cab station in Pittsburgh is the stage on which this two act takes place.
The ensemble acting is truly excellent all around. Alfred H. Wilson is perfect as Becker — who runs the station — an upstanding, hardworking man, trying to succeed in the world, play by its unjust rules, and who blames his son for the death of his wife. Horace Smith, as Turnbo, turns in an excellent portraiture of the type of character who espouses, “live and let live,” and who, while claiming “I ain’t trying to get in your business,” is, in fact, always in your business. Will Little is intense and vulnerable as Youngblood, a young man trying to change his lazy, misogynistic ways — so typical of his generation. Dhakeria Cunningham brings just the right combination of caring and self-worth as Youngblood’s girlfriend, Rena. Steven McKenzy provides warmth and wisdom as old friend, Doub. Don Laurin Johnson dramatically plays Becker’s son, Booster, who believes that a woman who lies is deserving of death.
The supporting roles were all uniquely realized by Martin Taylor as Philmore; Ron Bobb-Semple as Fielding; and Andrew Drake as Shealy.
IF YOU GO
August Wilson’s ‘Jitney’
When: 8 p.m.; runs through Feb. 3
Where: Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Theatre, 1646 10th Way
Info: Call 366-1505
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