Jitney Review




Monday October 30, 2006

Richard Brooks(left) and James Avery (Photo: Stephen Simon)

JITNEY At a time when many playwrights embrace minimalism, the late August Wilson was an unregenerate maximalist, cramming every possible bit of life, passion, eloquent dialogue, rich digression and idiosyncratic character into his work. Here, he depicts life among the employees of a black-owned gypsy cab service in 1970s Pittsburgh. Hard-working manager Becker (James Avery) has become embittered because his much-loved son, Booster (Richard Brooks), has gone to prison for murdering a white woman who falsely accused him of rape. Peppery blabbermouth Turnbo (John Toles-Bey) can’t resist the impulse to mind other people’s business, but he’s quick to grab a gun when he feels he’s being dissed.

Army vet Youngblood (Russell Andrews) strives to make his marriage to Rena (Lizette Carrión) work, and provide a home for their son, while alcoholic Fielding (Mel Winkler) can’t forget the wife who left him 22 years ago. A determination to preserve their jobs, pride and honor dominates their actions. There’s little plot in the traditional sense, but plenty of action and good talk. Director Claude Purdy creates a funny, intense, finely modulated production on Joel Daavid’s wonderfully detailed set. And the cast, including Bill Lee Brown, Alex Morris and Daryl Alan Reed, is near perfect.

Stagewalkers Productions at THE LILLIAN THEATER, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 19. (323) 960-7721. (Neal Weaver)