Monday, April 13, 2009

Joe Turner has come and gone by August Wilson

LCT's newest production is the first Broadway revival of August Wilson's JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONE, by one of the country's most revered playwrights. Nominated for six Tony Awards in the 1988-89 season, JOE TURNER was named Best Play by the New York Drama Critics Circle.

August Wilson's JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONE is set in a Pittsburgh boarding house in 1911. Owners Seth and Bertha Holly play host to a makeshift family of people who come to stay, some for days, some longer, during the Great Migration of the 1910s when descendants of former slaves moved in large numbers from the South toward the industrial cities of the North, seeking new jobs, new lives and new beginnings.

Among those on the move are Herald Loomis and his young daughter, Zonia. Haunted by the past, they are headed wherever the road takes them in search of the long gone Martha, Herald's wife and Zonia's mother. Herald arrives at the boarding house unsettled, dark and secretive. Seth Holly is suspicious and wants him out almost as soon as he arrives, but Bertha and the others see him differently, and by action and example, they help set him on the way to recovering his lost spirit and finding a new life.

The story is richly detailed, joyous, sad, and always hopeful. Mr. Wilson's words from the play's introduction best set the scene:

"It is August in Pittsburgh, 1911.... From the deep and the near South the sons and daughters of newly freed African slaves wander into the city. Isolated, cut off from memory.... They arrive carrying Bibles and guitars, their pockets lined with dust and fresh hope, marked men and women seeking to scrape from the narrow, crooked cobbles and the fiery blasts of the coke furnace a way of bludgeoning and shaping the malleable parts of themselves into a new identity as free men of definite and sincere worth."

August Wilson's JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONE will be staged by LCT Resident Director Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, Awake and Sing!, and The Light in the Piazza) in collaboration with Michael Yeargan (sets), Catherine Zuber (costumes) and Brian MacDevitt (lighting). Previews begin March 19 at the Belasco Theatre, while South Pacific continues its extended run at LCT's Beaumont.

Mr. Wilson's widow, Constanza Romero, has graciously given Lincoln Center Theater the rights to produce JOE TURNER which, she notes, "August always said was his favorite of all his plays." It's ours too.

Marsha Stephanie Blake , Chad L. Coleman , Michael Cummings , Aunjanue Ellis , Danai Gurira , Andre Holland , Arliss Howard , Ernie Hudson , LaTanya Richardson Jackson , Amari Rose Leigh , Roger Robinson