A shadow lingers over Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In the aftermath of World War II, grief and death lingered like a shadow over the world’s existence. In the late 40s in the Pittsburgh Hill District of Pennsylvania, that shadow hovers over a close knit group of friends in August Wilson’s gripping mystery, Seven Guitars. Love, loneliness, grief, friendship, and the blues strike a chord as each character in Seven Guitars search for their share of happiness in an area nicknamed ‘The Crossroads of the World.’
Directed conscientiously by Maurice Emmanuel Parent, Actors’ Shakespeare Project presents August Wilson’s Seven Guitars through March 5 live and in person at Hibernian Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. Hibernian Hall provides an intimate theatre setting without a bad set in the house. Seven Guitars is intended for mature audiences and runs for two hours and 45 minutes with one 15 min intermission. Click here for more information and tickets.
Written after August Wilson’s Fences, it is easy to see a few of the earmarks of Wilson’s lauded work including Wilson’s rich and cadenced dialogue. Fences and Seven Guitars are set in Pittsburgh in a neighborhood backyard, and some of the characters in Seven Guitars and Fences share some loose similarities including the ill-advised, but unwavering loyalty from Rose Maxson in Fences and Vera Dotson in Seven Guitars.
Jon Savage’s inviting backyard scenic design features a multi-tiered set, colorful garden plot, mood setting hanging string lights, and an inhabited patio dining set. From lively to tense and shocking moments, Amanda E. Fallon’s affective lighting combined with Abe Joyner- Meyers’s mood induced sound design and Dewey Dellay’s haunting and carefully crafted music composition impressively maneuver this evolving and multi-layered production. Costume Designer Nia Safarr Banks utilizes classic colors and retro patterns to enhance each character’s distinct personality including vintage flowing dresses and plumed bowler hats.
However, one of greatest strengths of this particular production is Parent’s great care in the cast’s tight bond. Whether pondering their own mortality, listening to the radio, shooting the breeze or gripped by a suspenseful moment, the cast easily draws in the audience by their natural and captivating chemistry.
Following the funeral of Floyd ‘Schoolboy’ Barton (Anthony T Goss), Seven Guitars follows a group of friends that gather to honor a complicated man. Goss skillfully depicts Barton’s sass, swagger and charm, but also his admirable determination and dream to be among the haves than the have-nots. His resolution for success makes him sympathetic despite his egotistically justifiable wrongdoings. He has compelling chemistry with Maya Carter who delivers a moving performance as devoted, spiritual, and skeptical Vera. Carter’s intense opening monologue is relatable and heartrending and Carter only gets better from there. On a lighter note, Regina Vital’s fiercely independent, loyal, and charismatic Louise provides a wealth of humor and fun, especially when she goes toe to toe with Omar Robinson as Canewell, Dereks Thomas as Red Carter, or Valyn Lyric Turner as Louise’s seemingly impressionable niece Ruby. Robinson as talkative and good natured Canewell, Thomas as ladies man Red, Mack as Hedley and Goss as Floyd share some engrossing camaraderie whether it is for a spontaneous dance with makeshift instruments, playing pranks on each other, or sharing their riveting musings about the future. However, when they are enjoying themselves, it is a relaxed vibe that is a joy to watch.
Johnnie Mack delivers a searing and multi-dimensional performance as peculiar, lonely and hardworking dreamer Hedley. In overalls and an apron, Hedley has lofty dreams and supportive friends, but lives in a sad reality. Mack seamlessly navigates Hedley’s intermittent moods with rising tension weaved into some compassionate moments.
Visions of grandeur, ambition, and destiny play more than a medley in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars on a landscape that has experienced harsh realities. For August Wilson’s richly drawn and dynamic characters, one cannot help but share their hopes for a brighter future.
Actors’ Shakespeare Project presents August Wilson’s Seven Guitars through March 5 live and in person at Hibernian Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets.