Pittsburgh Living Blues

August Wilson's panoramic vision: Love, music, food money—and omnipresent death

Lance Reddick, Kevin T. Carroll, and Stephen McKinley Henderson
photo: Carol Rosegg
Lance Reddick, Kevin T. Carroll, and Stephen McKinley Henderson

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who made a memorably rakish Canewell in the first New York production of Seven Guitars a decade ago, clearly understands the doublefold nature of Wilson's talk. He has directed this revival, the first production of Signature Theatre's three-play Wilson season, with colloquial ease and speed, steering carefully past the temptation, ever present in Wilson's scripts, to turn oratorical. Even Hedley's oracular pronouncements are managed by Weldon in an incantatory-obsessive style that makes them personal remarks rather than lectures to the audience. The atmosphere, set up by Bill Sims Jr.'s subtly chosen music, is always right. The bright-toned, energetic Pressley makes a wonderful match for Carroll's quirky blending of the snakily sly and the wistful; Henderson's skill and humor, in his third New York outing with a Wilson play (creating a portrait very different from the last two), are no surprise. Reddick's Floyd starts stiffly, seeming ill at ease with the language and the place, but quickly improves; his last scenes are powerful. He must be much aided by the warmth emanating from Ruff's Vera, a gem of a performance by an actress who has to rank as a major discovery. The sight of her beautiful round face, laden with sadness for what might have been, is the main memory I'll take away from this production.

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