Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Gem" launches 10-play cycle at STC

“Gem of the Ocean,” set in 1904, describes city life for African-Americans in the North as they try to adapt to freedom from slavery. The older characters vividly remember slavery. The oldest, Aunt Ester Tyler, played by Lisa Lacy, claims to be 285 years old, thus mixing reality with fantasy. She welcomes into her Hill District home Solly Two Kings (Donald Lacy) and Citizen Barlow (Hosea L. Simons).

Others in the household are Ester’s housekeeper, “Black” Mary Wilkes (C. Kelly Wright) and Ester’s student of soul cleansing, plus Eli (James Wheatley), Ester’s caretaker and Solly’s former comrade in arms when they served in the Union Army.

Rounding out the cast are two non-residents. Rutherford Selig (Matt K. Miller), the only white character, sells pots and pans. Caesar Wilkes (Hansford Prince), “Black” Mary’s brother, is a heartless policeman who harasses his own people.

“Gem” is the first of August Wilson’s ten-play Pittsburgh Cycle, “chronicling the African-American experience through each decade of the 1900’s.” In a bold experiment the Sacramento Theatre Company has dedicated itself to bringing the entire series to its stage in chronological order. After a slow first act, “Gem” comes to life, including mythical scenes about the days of slave ships plus violence between Caesar and Solly, who is suspected of burning down the local mill.

You can find a detailed review in today’s Village Life (, serving El Dorado Hills. For more information about the Sacramento Theatre Company, click the title of this post.

No comments: