While waiting for s blues diva Gertrude "Ma" Rainey to show up at a run-down Chicago recording studio, a motley ensemble of musicians who make up her band bicker, debate, and basically rattle on and on and on for the first 40 minutes or so of Ma Rainey's Black Bottomthe landmark August Wilson play now at the Rep. It's not until Ma finally appears and no, we don't see her bottom that the thing takes off. Subsequent scenes sans Ma — and they are plentiful, unfortch — are akin to watching an episode of Will and Grace with the Jack-and-Karen scenes deleted, and it all sets in motion a destructive turn of events leading to a heavy thud of an ending.
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Photo by Michael Brosilow. August Wilson famously tackled the entirety of the 20th century with his poetic works of human tragedy and mythic resilience. It is a beautifully written and deeply moving portrayal of music, ambition, and suffering in the s.
August Wilson April 27, — October 2, was an American playwright whose work included a series of ten plays, The Pittsburgh Cyclefor which he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Each work in the series is set in a different decade, and depicts comic and tragic aspects of the African-American experience in the 20th century. Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel Jr.
The play explores race relations between blacks and whites in s America and the African-American search for identity. The title comes from the song of the same name, which is at the heart of a major conflict in the play. Wilson pits Levee against Rainey, the band members, and the whites, examining various stripes of inter- and intra-racial conflict.
It is August Wilson at his best, and features the most talented cast in Houston right now. It is part musical, but has heavy serious things to say about the African American experience in the s. As usual The Ensemble balances these two elements with style and grace, providing an evening that is as entertaining as it is enlightening.
August Wilson was a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright who lived the final 15 years of his life in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. His play cycle of dramas covered each decade of African American life in the twentieth century. His stories are largely set in his native Pittsburgh, where he grew up in the black section of town known as The Hill.
What begins as a routine recording session becomes more strained as tensions rise between the members of a blues band and the owners of the recording studio. The white producers mean to exploit the talents of the band-especially the gifted and impulsive Levee-but when Ma insists on having things her way, tensions are enflamed and the play builds to an unexpected and searing climax. Writers Theatre Seating Charts. Chicago Tribune - Recommended.