Magazine article Variety

Jitney

Magazine article Variety

Jitney

Article excerpt

THEATER REVIEW / BROADWAY

Jitney

Theater: Samuel J. Friedman; 650 seats; $140 top.

Director: Ruben Santiago-Hudson

Starring: André Holland, Brandon J. Dirden, John Douglas Thompson, Carra Patterson

With August Wilson's "Fences" playing in movie theaters, and André Holland attracting Oscar buzz for his star-making performance in "Moonlight," Manhattan Theater Club should draw crowds to this pitch-perfect revival of another play in Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle. Although "Jitney" was the only one of Wilson's 10 plays that hasn't previously had a Broadway production, this ensemble piece about gypsy cab drivers trying to make an honest living in the 1970s remains one of Wilson's best.

Like all the plays in the cycle, "Jitney" is set in the Pittsburgh Hill District. The scene is a busy gypsy cab company - busy because regular cab companies won't service this black neighborhood. The company is operated by Becker (John Douglas Thompson), an upright man who sets stringent rules for his drivers, including no drinking, be courteous, and replace and clean tools. These are the kinds of rules everyone might live by.

That great god Gentrification, a sign of the '70s, is coming to the Hill District, and local residents are living on the edge. But not Becker, who intends to carry on until the gentrifiers drag him out by the heels. That bullheadedness might work with his drivers, but when extended to his son, it resulted in an estrangement that now seems irreparable.

Rather than following a conventionally structured plot, the wheels of the play turn on mini-dramas like this one. …

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