Scene, August Wilson's "The Piano Lesson"


“Signature Theatre’s revival of August Wilson’s Piano Lesson brings a timely reminder of how consoling, how restorative, how emotionally sustaining great theatre can be,” Charles Isherwood, The New York Times

Scene, August Wilson's "The Piano Lesson"

Scene, August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson

Stephen King would have taken the story over the top. No doubt the piano was haunted (by the slave who built it and the owners who exploited the family). But in August Wilson’s sure hands, the piano in “The Piano Lesson,” his Pulitzer prize-winning play, is simply a valued heirloom, the centerpiece of Uncle Doaker’s parlor – and of the story, the fourth chapter in the deceased playwright’s epic Century Cycle.

On a quick trip to Manhattan last week for an early birthday and New Year’s celebration a deux, Clint and I saw the first major New York revival of ‘The Piano Lesson” and found the production matched the buzz. All six actors are fearless and galvanizing, especially the lead, Roslyn Ruff. Her Berniece is the sun around which all the action revolves. The actress, who says little but feels deeply, occupies the stage like the calm before the storm – bound to let loose the minute her child or her legacy comes under threat.

(And yes, the piano playing is live. Ruff told us over a drink at Signature cafe, everyone had to learn to play their riffs – and, remarkably, did.)

The production itself is also memorable, with beautiful staging by director Ruben Santiago-Hudson, a former actor and formidable Wilson interpreter.

Set in 1936 in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, “The Piano Lesson” tells the story of the Charles family as they battle their surroundings and each other over an intricately carved antique.

For the full New York Times review, click on this link.

For a preview, watch the video.

“The Piano Lesson” runs through January 13 at the Signature Theatre, 480 West 42nd Street near 10th Avenue. Tickets are $75. Call 212-244-7529.

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