March 4, 2008

The Piano Lesson


The Indiana Repertory Theatre's current main stage production is a great choice for February, Black History Month.

"The Piano Lesson" is one of a ten-part series written by August Wilson that chronicles black American culture and experience. Each of the plays represent one decade in the 20th century. The IRT included one of the plays, "Gem of the Ocean" in last year's season. The entire work captures the life styles and struggles black Americans faced during the tumultuous century.

This show, a Pulitzer-prize winner, is set in the 1930s and follows the Charles family. Brother and sister Boy Willie and Berniece find themselves on opposite sides of an argument when Willie decides he wants to sell a family heirloom of which they share ownership. The object in question, a priceless piano, is covered with ornate carvings detailing the family's rise from slavery.

Boy Willie is a bubbling cauldron of trouble and bad attitude. He sees only his own future and what he might do with the money from the piano. Berniece is a young widowed mother, who has become jaded and cold since her husband's death.

Roslyn Ruff who plays Berniece and Carl Cofield as Boy Willie do an excellent job. The very different characters are both intense and stubborn in their own ways and the actors capture that.

Kudos also goes to the Michael Lincoln, the production's lighting designer, who makes the set come alive with spirits from the past with his lighting.

There are a couple scenes in the play where the characters perform songs. These moments are the strongest in the show. Music is so deeply ingrained in black American culture and that element is highlighted during those scenes. They are the times when the show truly comes alive.

Don't Miss the Show

Performances: The show runs until Saturday March 15 on IRT's Mainstage. Times for performances can be found at www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252.

Tickets: To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at www.irtlive.com Prices begin at $32.

The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois Street and southbound Capitol Avenue.

*Photo Courtesy of the IRT

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