By August Wilson
Directed by Timothy Douglas
Through Dec. 18
By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
The fifth installment in August Wilson's Pulitzer-Prize winning cycle exploring the African-American experience in the 20th century. Set in 1948 Pittsburgh, this story follows the life and legacy of a blues guitarist, Floyd Barton (Billy Eugene Jones).
Barton, just home from being jailed, finds himself a sudden pop sensation when a song he wrote tops the charts. He hopes old love, Vera (Rachel Leslie) will join him and go to Chicago so he can sign a record contract and be a star, but things can't just go back to the way they were....
Told in flashback, this slice-of-life play explores the hopes and dreams of the cast of characters: Louise (Stephanie Berry) and Hedley (Andre de Shields), Vera's older neighbors, Red Carter (Danny Johnson), Floyd's band mate and a player when it comes to the ladies as well, Canewell (Wayne T. Carr), also Floyd's bandmate and best friend, and beautiful Ruby (Antoinette Crowe-Legacy), Louise's niece who comes to stay and causes some rivalry for her attention, but the men don't know she has come to town to get away from her past, which resulted in a baby on the way.
What Are the Highlights?
A gentle, moving story performed by a talented cast directed by Timothy Douglas (who directed the world premiere of Wilson's Radio Golf at Yale Rep).
Fufan Zhang's backyard set is deceptive in its simplicity. The two levels offer traces of the lives playing out on them and the stairs linking them give characters an added means of expression. No one takes them in quite the same way. A sandy hill gives life to on burst of color, only to have that bring pain as well. Zhang also provides sound design and music composition (directed by Dwight Andrews) to add to the atmosphere.
What Are the Lowlights?
At almost three hours, the play is about 30 minutes too long.
Seven Guitars plays through Dec. 18 at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel St., New Haven. Performance times vary. Tickets $12-$99: www.yalerep.org; 203-432-1234, Box Office (1120 Chapel St.). Student, senior, and group rates are available.
The production team includes music director Dwight Andrews, scenic designer Fufan Zhang, costume designer An-lin Dauber, lighting designer Carolina Ortiz Herrera, sound designer and composer Fan Zhang, technical director Ian Hannan, dramaturg Catherine María Rodríguez, dialect coach Ron Carlos, fight director Rick Sordelet, casting director Tara Rubin Casting, and stage manager Helen Irene Muller.