Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Piano Lesson *****

(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
This lively revival of August Wilson's play about a black family in Pittsburgh in 1936 is one of the highlights of the season. This Signature Theatre production, ably directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, features an ensemble cast that is close to perfection. Roslyn Ruff's stern Berniece is a worthy opponent for Brandon J. Dirden's feisty Boy Willie, as the two siblings fight over the piano on which their grandfather had carved the family history. James A. Williams (Doaker), Jason Dirden (Lymon), Chuck Cooper (Wining Boy) and Eric Lenox Abrams (Avery) bring their distinctive characters vividly to life. Alexis Holt (Maretha) and Mandi Masden (Grace) are fine in smaller roles. Michael Carnahan's set is superb, as are Karen Perry's costumes and Rui Rita's lighting. I was surprised how much humor there is and how central a role music plays. From an a capella work song to boogie woogie to blues, the music is beautifully performed and seamlessly integrated into the action. The pace is leisurely, but gratifyingly so. All in all, a rare treat. Running time: 2 hours, 55 minutes including intermission.

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