BWW Review: August Wilson's JITNEY is Full of Life at The Music Hall!
When a play is called "a must see," I get a little nervous, but August Wilson's Jitney was exactly that. It's healthy to question your peers, but the Huffington Post was spot on with that description. Broadway in Detroit is currently presenting the show in partnership with The Detroit Public Theatre at The Music Hall until November 16th in Detroit. Winner of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play, the show is set in the early 1970s and this richly textured piece follows a group of men trying to eke out a living by driving unlicensed cabs or Jitneys. When the city threatens to board up the business and the boss' son returns from prison, tempers flare, potent secrets are revealed and the fragile threads binding these people together may come undone at last. Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson with an extremely talented group of performers, Wilson's poignant story to life on stage in a magnificent way.
In an interview with American Theatre about Jitney, Ruben Santiago-Hudson said, "Many audiences haven't seen August Wilson's plays done well, so my mission is to go out and do the plays well the way the author intended. The celebration of African American life and the way we navigate this landscape... We have a whole different set of problems that we face, and the way we have to face them is different than any other race or village." Watching Jitney on stage at The Music Hall, he did exactly what he intended to do - an August Wilson play performed the way the author intended. I felt like I was in a gypsy cab station in the middle of Pittsburgh in 1977 going through the happiness, worries, and woes that these Jitney drivers were going through in their lives.
To be completely honest, I'm a middle-class, working white girl who is currently sitting at a Starbucks with her Beats on so hopefully no one will talk to her while she is typing because she needed a change a space to think. Her biggest worry today? She's wondering why her automatic car starter didn't work and she had to get in a cold car after brushing a little snow off the windshield. As you can see, I'm not exactly relating to the people's problems in the play of Jitney. I've been to productions of August Wilson shows in the past and I've enjoyed them, but I've never related them to or felt like I was part of them - that only came if I was actually reading the play itself. This production of Jitney, Ruben Santiago-Hudson's production, was the first time this celebration of African American life invited me inside and allowed me to be part of the story.
Jitney was alive. It didn't fall flat. It didn't try to force emotion. The show was alive before it started, slowly drawing the audience in and it never fully stopped until the end. I know that probably sounds like - and it is - the strangest sentence in the world, but I feel like it was this really organic, living experience. It was constant moving and emotional ride that I didn't even feel building. It was an amazing experience and I'm thankful to Ruben Santiago-Hudson for his vision of August Wilson's Jitney and one I hope others don't miss the chance to experience this organic piece of amazing theatre.
Jitney is currently playing until November 16th at The Music Hall in Detroit. For more information and tickets, visit www.BroadwayInDetroit.com.