Archive for Theater

Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant!

With Denzel, Viola and a terrific cast, August Wilson’s “Fences” is BRILLIANT!

The action takes place during the 1950’s in the usual location for Wilson’s plays, the Hill District of Pittsburgh, where many southern blacks migrated to settle and find work.  It’s tale of former baseball player Troy Maxon’s lost dreams and how that loss effected his life and those that surrounded it is still relevant and powerful today. This current production has been nominated for several Tony‘s, Best Revival of a Play, Lead Actor for Mr Washington and Lead Actress for Ms Davis.

As I have posted several times, August Wilson, (1945-2005) is one of my favorite playwrights. His plays speak to the varied layers and stages of the human condition which I think makes his work so emotionally available to all. He wrote a play for every decade of the last century to chronicle how black people dealt with their hopes and dreams – deferred or not.  How changes in daily life, and in the world, are met with humor, determination and courage by everyday folks is a universal theme and not just for people of color. “Change” and all that it creates and/or destroys affects everyone.

I’ll be watching and rooting for this very satisfying play by one of my favorite playwrights.

FYI – The original production of “Fences” won the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize in 1985.
The image below is a poster from 1985 – starring James Earl Jones and Mary Alice (I love them too)    

“Fela!” * Loved It!

This might be a totally “African Diaspora” type of thing, but you know how your shoulders start to go up and down whenever you hear drums? Well, imagine an entire audience bouncing their shoulders in time with the music/drums of” Fela!”

I like to get to my theater seat early and watch the audience come in- I’m nosy and I enjoy it. But, there was an extra bonus this time because while we think we’re waiting for the seats to fill and the play to start, this musical has already begun – there is a great band that plays Afrobeat rhythms nonstop until the official “curtain up” moment.  By setting the tone and mood this way, the audience is prepared for a rousing, exciting, powerful, fun experience.

The story introduces us to Nigerian musician and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti, 1938-1997, as he plays his last show, full of music, dancing and Nigerian political commentary, at his club, “da Shrine”. The funny and sad, exciting and tragic events unfold to the pulsating, layered sounds of the Afrobeat music Fela made popular in the 70’s.  The play was a terrific emotional roller coaster ride and I was wiped by the time the lights went up. (I just love it when I am totally engaged and invested in what’s going on- love it, love it, love it.)

“Fela!” was wonderful. I will see it again.

BTW: – “Fela!” has been nominated for tons of Tony Awards including, Best Musical, Best Lead (Sahr Ngaujah), Best featured (Lilias White), Best Director/Best Choreographer (Bill T. Jones – he’s a genius!) I predict lots of wins!

August and Denzel!

August Wilson’s Pulitzer prize winning play, “Fences”, is scheduled for a Broadway revival this April. Not only am I excited about seeing another one of his brilliant pieces of theater – but it will also star DENZEL!  (Mr Washington is one of those people that only need one name to identify them)  He along with the amazing Viola Davis are in the cast.  (Tickets are already on sale – Cort Theater, NYC.)

The ambitious intentions of this playwright resulted in the impressive, and enjoyable, “August Wilson Century Cycle” box set. It consists of a play for every decade of the 20th century that would chronicle some part of the black experience in America.

Through the use of his great ear for dialogue, Wilson (April 1945 – October 2005) was able to give us some insight into the daily life – both struggles and triumphs – of an assortment of universal characters that his audience could easily recognize.

An ambitious undertaking, but, his huge vision was realized and, btw, it resulted in 2 Pulitzers and a Tony award. He accomplished a lot doing what he loved to do and perhaps more importantly, August Wilson left a powerful body of work that will be read and performed for years to come. Dreaming big has rewards of all kinds.

BTW: All 10 of August Wilson’s plays are collected in hard cover with a nice presentation box.  Each has an introduction by an actor, director or writer familiar with his work.

In 2005, August Wilson completed the ten-play cycle:
1900s – Gem of the Ocean (2003)
1910s – Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1984)
1920s – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1982)
1930s – The Piano Lesson (1986) – Pulitzer Prize
1940s – Seven Guitars (1995)
1950s – Fences (1985) – Pulitzer Prize
1960s – Two Trains Running (1990)
1970s – Jitney (1982)
1980s – King Hedley II (2001)
1990s – Radio Golf (2005)