Review Roundup: JITNEY at Seattle Rep - What Did the Critics Think?
Jitney is a richly textured piece set in the 1970s that 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 this makeshift family together threaten to come undone at last.
The full company for Jitney includes Francois Battiste (Booster), Harvy Blanks (Shealy), Amari Cheatom (Youngblood), Anthony Chisholm (Fielding), Brian D. Coats (Philmore, Understudy: Shealy, Fielding), Steven Anthony Jones (Becker), Nija Okoro (Rena), Keith Randolph Smith (Doub), and Ray Anthony Thomas (Turnbo), James T. Alfred (Understudy: Booster, Youngblood), A. Russell Andrews (Understudy: Philmore, Becker, Doub, Turnbo), Patrese D. McClain (Understudy: Rena), Kamra A. Jacobs (Production Stage Manager), and Mandisa Reed (Assistant Stage Manager).
Let's see what the critics are saying...
Jay Irwin, BroadwayWorld: The ensemble cast is beyond superb. This collection of experienced, mature actors gives us a master class on character development and investment. Jones maintains a commanding presence of strength and integrity in this world as does his long time driver Doub, played with incredible stage presence by Keith Randolph Smith. Ray Anthony Thomas brings in the meddling gossip Turnbo with a commitment that makes him both sympathetic and annoying as hell. I must mention Anthony Chisholm who brings in the best and most endearing drunk I think I've ever seen. Even the smallest roles, that of Philmore played by Brian D. Coats and Shealy from Harvy Blanks are never just thrown away characters but engaging and essential.
Trevor Lenzmeier, Seattle Times: Much of that lauded ensemble is onstage at the Rep, ably bringing out the music of Wilson's script as the drivers chat and bicker more like family than friends. They bring to life the heart-wrenching struggles of a community pushed to a breaking point - both Black people in Pittsburgh and these men specifically. As the city threatens to demolish the entire block to "build houses," each man shows in his own way what happens when forced into a corner.
Marie Bonfils, Drama in the Hood: Everything about this play worked well, there was original music by Bill Sims Jr., which added non-verbal punctuation to the first silent scene, the costumes by Toni-Leslie James were vintage '70's In addition to the bell-bottoms, leather and boots there was an actual Leisure Suit worn by Shealy the bookie. "Leisure Suits" were these pastel colored polyester casual trouser and jacket ensembles worn by middle-aged men, when the rest of us only ever wore blue jeans. Shealy's Leisure Suit was almost fluorescent green, like his character, flamboyant and in sufficiently bad taste to take advantage of his friends.