Review: The Court Theater presents August Wilson’s Jitney

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August Wilson (1945-2005) is one of the most influential and talented contemporary playwrights. His theatrical masterpieces capture the pure heart and soul of the African-American experience. Largely inspired by the Civil Rights movement and painter Romare Bearden, Wilson often explores themes of identity, honor, betrayal, and love.

Jitney is Wilson’s first play and is part of his Century Cycle – a series of 10 plays set in a separate decade of the 20th Century. Running now through October 14th at The Court Theater, Jitney tells a gripping story of the bonding and explosive relationships between a group jitney drivers and the community in which they serve.

It is early fall…Pittsburgh 1977. A small radio sitting on top a dusty shelf cranks out the tunes of Earth, Wind, and Fire, The Commodores, and Stevie Wonder. Becker is the owner of a jitney cab service located in the heart of the African American community of Hill District. Youngblood, Fielding, Doub, and Turnbo are Becker’s core staff of employees hustling to make a honest living. Conflicting personalities, meddling, and addiction are the cause of constant and tension and confusion. The men soon discover that city officials have given notice to tear down all the buildings on the block where the cab service is located. Not only is their friendship further tested, but their livelihoods threatened. Although initially indecisive, Becker rallies his team to fight the good fight against city hall. But as they prepare to engage, Becker’s son Booster returns home from a twenty-year jail sentence. Becker soon finds himself in another fierce battle that uncovers several decades of deep-seated scars.

Originally produced at Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Repertory Theatre in 1982, Jitney was the only August Wilson play that was not staged on Broadway. However, it has reached critical and public acclaim throughout the regional theater circuit. Under the brilliant direction of Ron OJ Parson, the ensemble cast and crew succeed in delivering an outstanding production. Veteran actor, A.C. Smith plays Becker alongside Kamal Angelo Bolden (Youngblood), Alfred Wilson (Fielding), Cedric Young (Doub), Allen Gilmore (Turnbo), and Anthony Fleming III (Booster). Andre Teamer, Brian Weddington, and Caren Blackmore round out the cast of actors who all give award-winning performances. Jitney is an absolute ‘must see.’

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