Dual Critics: Stage Aurora’s The Piano Lesson


March 6-8, 2015, see tickets & times

If you read no further than this know that this is considered August Wilson’s best play, and it truly holds your interest and when done as well as this , is enthralling.

This domestic drama takes place in a modest house in Pittsburgh, in the l930s. A central character is this play is a large old piano that is the center piece of this living room.

The two main characters are brother and sister and their main topic of discussion is the piano. The brother Boy Willie is from Mississippi where he is a farmer, and hopes to buy 2,000 acres of land from a former slave owner. His only problem is the money. He has l/3 of the funds saved, has a load of watermelons he trucked up here to sell, for another 1/3 and he wants sell the piano for the final 1/3rd. The problem is the piano was left to him and his sister Bernice and she does not want to sell it. For Boy Willie, the piano is a way to further himself, to make him a true farmer and land owner, for Bernice the piano represents something her mother really loved and was owned by her grand and great grandparents and even has the family history carved into the front of the piano.

Wilson has fashioned several colorful characters that all have their opinions about the impasse. Bernice is a widow, with an eleven year old well mannered daughter Maretha and they live in the house of Bernice’s uncle, Doaker who is played by K. Sidney Bronson. We last saw Mr. Bronson in “The Color Purple” at the Alhambra Theatre and Dining. He is marvelous as Doaker, and delivers a long moving monologue about the history of the piano.

Willie Boy’s partner in the watermelons transport and sales, is Lymon (Detrick Wilson), who is also from Mississippi but has decided to remain in Pittsburgh as he likes the women and the picture shows. He is also wanted by the law back home in another case of convoluted Southern justice that was prevalent in the 30s and 40s. (We saw an example of this in the recent production at Players by the Sea with “A Lesson Before Dying“.) Lymon likes the women of Pittsburgh and picture shows. Lymon buys a red suit, a really RED suit (keep your sun glasses handy!).

Wining Boy (Post to Post Links II error: No link found for term slug "Detrick Horne"), is another of Wilson’s colorful personages, with his fancy clothes and an awesome white beard (but well trimmed!). Wining Boy is a gambler, heavy drinker, and sometimes jazz singer and he does all of these things in this play. Yes, there is some music in this show, with all the men joining in the singing, while Wining plays the piano.

Joiakin Fosterplays Avery Brown, a full time elevator operator in a downtown building, but he aspires to have his own church as he is an ordained preacher. He is sweet on Bernice and has asked her to marry since a preacher ought to have wife. Although she likes him, there is no real physical attraction to this very sincere and articulate young man.

Grace played by DeWonna Singleton. This is a young attractive woman who first has a romantic interest in Boy Willie but she is not pleased when he attempts to seduce her on the living room couch of Doaker’s home and is run off by Bernice when she walks in on them. Grace returns later and this time has taken up with Lymon.

You may have noticed, I left the two leading roles till last. Krystal Stallings-Devore is making stage debut with Stage Aurora, and is excellent as the feisty Bernice in a very convincing performance. She plays a fine force to be reckoned with!!

“The Piano Lesson” is directed by Cedarian Crawford who is also playing the demanding role of Boy Willie who crackles with fast-talking vitality in a tour de force performance. You have noticed if you have read this far that as a lead he certainly gathered a superb ensemble of character actors. Mr. Crawford received his Bachelor of Arts from Berea College in Berea Kentucky where he appeared in many productions and was selected as a Hall of Fame Actor by the college after his graduation. He founded a theatrical arts company, Hidden Wounds Productions in 2006.

If this were an after the fact review, we would reveal the conclusion of this show, but since it plays another weekend there will be no spoilers here. Does Boy Willie have a ghost of a chance to persuade Berniece to give up the piano? Will Avery convince Berniece to marry him?

This is a well written play about a time in history and how it affected an ambitious family. It sounds serious but there is a lot of humor as well, much of it by Boy Willie.

The set design by Darryl Reuben HallEdward Hall and Thomas Law is picture perfect of hard working family in the l930’s. The light and the sound are by Alvin O. Mitchell.

Next up for Stage Aurora, a musical revival of “A Color Purple” in April.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.