<em>Seven Guitars</em>&nbsp;at Jubilee Theatre

Review: Seven Guitars | Jubilee Theatre

Music Matters

Jubilee Theatre introduces its new artistic director, Bill Ray, with a solid production of August Wilson's Seven Guitars.

published Thursday, February 25, 2016

Photo: Buddy Myers
Seven Guitars at Jubilee Theatre


Fort Worth — In his foreword to Seven Guitars as published in an anthology of all 10 of August Wilson’s Century Cycle, Tony Kushner wrote that as the play is set in 1948, chronologically the fifth in the cycle, it represents a crux in 20th century American history. It takes place 83 years after the abolition of slavery ushered in the Jim Crow era, and 52 years after Plessy vs. Ferguson. And it precedes the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Kushner wrote, “radical transformation is not yet palpable nor discernibly immanent in the Hill District, in postwar, economically depressed, racist America.”

“The play is about knowing and not knowing what time it is, about time passing, but even more significantly, about time stalling with tragic consequence.”

In the gorgeous production at Jubilee Theatre, directed by William “Bill” Earl Ray—who has been named the theater’s new artistic director—the pacing reflects that idea of time standing still, but it also moves with the rhythm of heartbeats.

That says as much about Wilson’s musicality here, fitting for a play called Seven Guitars. For the most part, Ray’s production captures that, too.

Especially with the women in this cast of seven (which is where the number of the title comes in; as there aren’t that many guitars we see or hear about). Ayoka Dorsey Lawson is Vera, whose backyard in Pittsburgh’s Hill District serves as the play’s setting (fantastic two-story set by Bryan Wofford). It’s her apartment, and the upstairs neighbors are Louise (a sassy, lionhearted Stormi Demerson) and Hedley (a terrific Alonzo Walker), a Caribbean man with deep spirituality, a suspicion of the white man and a chronic cough (he’s also the namesake for Wilson’s 1980s-set play King Hedley II). When Ruby (Whitney Coulter) arrives with big dreams, she shakes up the dynamic between Vera’s on/off beau Floyd, (Christopher Dontrell Piper), a musician/songwriter with an unexpected hit on his hands, and his friends Red Carter (lovable and menacing Marcus M. Mauldin) and Canewell (Amir Ali, who rushes his lines).

Piper is, as usual, fiery and dynamic; Floyd is the character for whom you want to root, but fear the worst. All three of the women are strong, with Lawson compelling in her confusion to fall, again, for Floyd.

On opening night, despite the skillful individual performances, the whole thing wasn’t quite in perfect balance, but that probably grew tighter in the final weeks. Jubilee has traditionally not been as strong with straight plays as it is with musicals, although that record has improved in this decade. Plus, Wilson’s works are not easy.

Ray has proven many times that he’s a gifted performer and a sure-handed director, and we’re looking forward to his tenure at the region’s oldest African-American theaters. For this group’s six-show season, he’ll hopefully continue in Garrett’s path of smartly balancing box-office hits (musicals and plays) with dynamic work that the audience might not know so well. There’s a wealth of young, talented African-American dramatists that, if programmed, could keep Jubilee on the path to be included in the national theater conversation. Thanks For Reading

Dates, Prices, & Other Details

View the Article Slideshow

Comment on this Article

Share this article on Social Media
Click or Swipe to close
Music Matters
Jubilee Theatre introduces its new artistic director, Bill Ray, with a solid production of August Wilson's Seven Guitars.
by Mark Lowry

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :