"August in February"

Feb. 26, 2006

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Robin Rombach, Post-Gazette
A scene from "Two Trains Running" with, from left, Art Terry (Wolf), Shanae Sharon (Risa), Ben Cain (Holloway) and Nathan James (Sterling).
Click photo for larger image.

I had the good fortune to be present for the four August Wilson scenes at the Feb. 13 matinee and then see them again with four additional scenes that night. Certainly the most moving was the scene from "Jitney," especially the confrontation between Becker and Booster, father and son, played by Sala Udin and Ben Cain. My heart was in my mouth at the controlled passion with which the father berated the son for throwing his life away, and I can't have been the only one thinking of the echoes of the family tragedy in Udin's own life.

James Earl Jones didn't have that local perspective, of course, but according to the Trust's Janis Burley Wilson, he said Udin had him in tears, both times he saw the scene. Talking about it later at the press conference announcing the naming of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Udin acknowledged his pleasure at the compliment. "And he called me 'young man'!" he said of Jones, with a big smile.

The "Joe Turner" excerpt was also strong, solving the problem of starting a scene already under way by having Bynum and Bertha (Doug Pona and Teri Bridgett) begin convulsed with laughter, which you just can't resist. It forced the audience into the moment. Cain reprised his looming Herald Loomis from last summer's "Joe Turner," alongside Vanessa German's clear, simple Martha. In fact, Cain was in three of those first four scenes.

Jay Jones was a sharp, edgy Levee in the intense "mother-**" scene from "Ma Rainey," and Charles Timbers generated chills with the horrific Rev. Gates story. Only the "Two Trains Running" scene felt lumpy, with pieces of too many plotlines to unravel. There were five directors to praise and many more actors, since it was really a large cast of local all-stars. Art Terry and Don Marshall gave their all by stepping into additional roles with a day's notice. Artistic director Mark Clayton Southers can be proud of what he started two years back. And Janis Burley Wilson, representing the Cultural Trust, reported a nighttime audience of more than 1,100.

Larry Rippel
The cast of "August in February," with James Earl Jones in front, center right.
Click photo for larger image


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