Friday, January 19, 2018
Stage

Here's how critics reviewed all 10 August Wilson cycle plays at American Stage

Here's a rundown of 10 seasons of American Century Cycle plays at American Stage, and what our reviewers said at the time.

RELATED: St. Petersburg's American Stage one of 12 theaters worldwide to complete the August Wilson cycle

Gem of the Ocean, 2007-08

In the 1900s, a young man from Alabama is carrying guilt for a crime that cost another man his life. He travels to Pittsburgh to see 285-year-old Aunt Ester for spiritual healing.

It is a brilliant production that goes to the heart of why Wilson was an American playwright to rank with Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. — John Fleming

King Hedley II, 2008-09

An ex-convict dreams of buying a video store. He sells stolen refrigerators to raise the money.

At the end of King Hedley II, when cast members take their bows, they look shattered, as if they have just gone through a war. In a way, they have ... King Hedley II may be Wilson's bleakest play, and American Stage steps up to the challenge. — John Fleming

Fences, 2009-10

Troy Maxson tries to reconcile his past potential in the Negro Leagues and his present as a sanitation worker in 1957 Pittsburgh.

I'm still not sure why I was so moved by Fences, stylishly directed by Timothy Douglas. It is in some ways one of Wilson's lesser plays, more commercial potboiler than deeply felt work of art, but there are scenes between Troy, his wife, children and best friend that have the weight of Shakespearean tragedy. — John Fleming

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, 2010-11

The fictionalized account of blues singer Ma Rainey explores the friction between artists with a unique form and a studio that wants to package their product.

Wilson loved hanging around musicians, and his warm portrayal of these guys is a joy. — John Fleming

Seven Guitars, 2011-12

Recently released from prison in 1948, blues singer Floyd "Schoolboy" Barton balances the elation of his surprise hit song with some baggage from his past.

The title refers to the seven characters, each given at least one sizzling solo ... (an) engrossing production. — John Fleming

The Piano Lesson, 2012-13

In Depression-era 1936, a brother and sister clash over what to do with a family heirloom, a piano on which two distant relatives have carved their names. One argues for keeping it, the other to sell the piano and buy land once farmed by their slave ancestors.

It's pure pleasure to take in the exchanges between (Alan Bomar) Jones and (Kim) Sullivan, Wilsonian veterans: Doaker is a slyly comedic presence, while Wining Boy's charismatic flash fades into alcoholism. — John Fleming

Two Trains Running, 2013-14

A diner owner in 1969 frets over the fate of his restaurant, which is threatened by eminent domain.

Director Bob Devin Jones draws fine performances from a strong cast. Many of them have worked together in the previous Wilson plays at American Stage, and it shows. — Colette Bancroft

Radio Golf, 2014-15

Wilson set the last play he wrote in 1990 Pittsburgh, where developers wants to demolish the home of Aunt Ester.

You know Pittsburgh through these characters and this staging, even if you've never been there. — Stephanie Hayes

Jitney, 2015-16

The owner of a gypsy cab service in 1970s Pittsburgh faces the possible loss of his business and a turbulent relationship with his son.

There is humor and heart in Jitney, and some surprises too. Wilson's work speaks to characters of all races who are seldom seen but should be. — Andrew Meacham

Joe Turner's Come and Gone, 2016-17

In 1911 Pittsburgh, transients in a boardinghouse try to put their lives back together. Opening this weekend at American Stage. Look for a review this week at tampabay.com.

     
         
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