By August Wilson
Directed by Elizabeth Van Dyke
Starring Dwayne Allen, Michael Sapp and Joe Reed
Seminole State College, Lake Mary Florida
It’s the final installment of the August Wilson’s “Pittsburg Cycle” tonight. These ten plays detail the black experience in America from the 1890’s to the 1990′. We started with “Gem of the Ocean” in 1904 where 290 year old Aunt Esther took Citizen Barlow to the Land of Bones to cleanse his spirit. By the end of the century she has passed on, leaving behind a now decrepit home at 1839 Wiley Street. In 1997 Harmond Wilks (Allen) has a decent chance of becoming Mayor of Pittsburg while his buddy Roosevelt Hicks (Sapp) is now a vice president at Mellon Bank. Harmond’s wife Mame (Felichia Chivaughn) is even in line as advisor to governor as soon as the election is over. They have teamed up to redevelop “The Hill,” the now nearly vacant traditionally black area of Pittsburgh. They’ve been buying up abandoned properties (sometimes without all the proper paperwork) including the Wiley property which is still owned by Elder Joseph “Call me Old Joe” Barlow. This is enough to not only derail the project, but send both of them back down in to the bowels of the black middle class.
One cannot find a better semi-crazed rambling monologist than Mr. Reed. He’s just coherent enough to make sense and just off kilter enough to make you wonder if he’s memorizing lines or improvising. Allen’s Wilkes is suave and calm, and in my book he can run any major depressed rust belt town he wants. Opposite him is a bubbly Michael Sapp; he’s in love with golf, in love with hanging with the big wigs, and in love with himself. But that’s OK, self-love never lets you down and it often improves your handicap. The calm center of this show is Mame; she’ll never be on top of the stack but she can pull strings from behind the curtain and that’s often more powerful. Supporting this cast is Nikeem Pearson (Sterling Jackson); he’s a self-employed laborer and hustler and he finds the story’s moral conscience with the line: “The mayor has more keys than the janitor, but they only gonna give you half the keys the janitor has.”
That line gets to the heart of what’s going on here: even with what seems resounding success socially and financially, there’s still a thread of doubt. Hicks is cut into a radio station deal because he’s black, and Sterling thinks Mr. Wilks would only be the black folk’s mayor. And Mame is only considered for the post as an advisor when her hubby is politically ascending. No matter how far you go, it’s never far enough. And over all of this, the ghost of Aunt Ester hovers, doing whatever hovering ghosts are best at: haunting you with the past.
For more information on the Seminole State College Theater program, please visit http://www.seminolestate.edu/arts/theatre/boxoffice.htm