BWW Review: The Black Rep's Powerful and Intriguing SEVEN GUITARS
August Wilson's SEVEN GUITARS represents the sixth installment in his "Pittsburgh Cycle", this time representing the decade of the 1940's. Apropos of the story, there are seven characters that we encounter in this play, which plays out as a sort of murder mystery. While I haven't yet seen all the works in the cycle, the ones that I have seen are rich with character and commentaries on their various eras. The Black Rep continues their 40th season with a very well done production that sparkles with superb performances all around.
When the play opens we're witness to the mourning of the death of rising blues guitarist/singer, Floyd "Schoolboy" Barton. Then we flashback through time to scenes that allow us to see the events that led up to that event. One thing is certain, Floyd's demise was not from natural causes.
Kingley Leggs embodies Floyd with all the charm,flirtatiousness, and bravado that his character demands. Floyd is a womanizer, and he's come back to Pittsburgh to convince a former lady friend, Vera, to accompany him to Chicago where he's been asked to record a follow-up to his unexpected hit song. Linda Kennedy deftly portrays Vera as a woman who may like the attention, but is definitely wary of going down that road again. Phillip Dixon does splendid work as Canewell, a neighbor who plays harmonica, and is always up for a good round of debate, particularly where the Bible is concerned. Cathy Simpson also provides strong work as the outspoken Louise, whose man hungry niece Ruby (a fine Lakesha Glover) arrives to stir things up. Reginald Pierre delivers nice work as drummer Red Carter, who's convinced to accompany Floyd to Chicago. Ron Himes is powerful as King Hedley, a man who dreams of having his own plantation, and who provides us with a shocking and ominous end to the first act by killing a noisy rooster.
Ed Smith's direction is focused and assured, and he guides this ensemble with precision. Tim Case's expertly crafted scenic design gives us the back of Vera's brick home, and a backyard setting where the action occurs. Jim Burwinkel's lighting is on point, and Michael Alan Stein's costumes work very nicely for the period evoked.
The Black Rep's production of SEVEN GUITARS is an engrossing experience. You'll be swept up by the characters and the themes and symbols that Wilson utilizes to tell his story. Catch it through April 23rd, 2017 at the Emerson Performance Center on the campus of Harris-Stowe University.