Magazine article Newsweek

Seven Guitars

Magazine article Newsweek

Seven Guitars

Article excerpt

AFTER THE PREMIERE of August Wilson's Seven Guitars at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago last week, a party took place at famed bluesman Buddy Guy's club, Legends. It was the perfect place for Wilson, who acknowledges the blues as his inspiration. No black playwright has entered the mainstream as strongly as Wilson, 49: of his five previous plays, two have won Pulitzers, "Fences" (1987) and "The Piano Lesson" (1990). "Seven Guitars" is slated for Boston's Huntington Theatre next fall and later for Broadway.

In Wilson's ambitious decade-by-decade cycle of plays about the black experience, "Seven Guitars" falls in the 1940s, during the postwar boom, which hasn't reached his characters in a Pittsburgh (Wilson's hometown) backwater. Six of them gather in the backyard of a rooming house to mourn the death of Floyd (Schoolboy) Barton, a promising blues guitarist. The play then flashes back to cover Floyd's last week of life. "Seven Guitars" is a metaphor for the characters, seven people interlacing the bluetoned music of their lives.

Floyd (Jerome Preston Bates) has had a hit record (for which he's been paid almost nothing). He's desperately trying to get back to Chicago to make another with harmonica player Canewell (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) and drummer Red Carter (Tommy Hollis). With equal desperation, Floyd is trying to repair his relationship with Vera (Viola Davis), whom he had left for another woman. Completing the septet are Louise (Michele Shay), a whist-playing earth mother; her pregnant, seductive niece Ruby (Rosalyn Coleman), and Hedley (Albert Hall), who kills chickens for his sandwich business, utters apocalyptic prophecies and bewails his childless state. …

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