Marin Theatre Company continues its 49th season with August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. Set in 1904, Pittsburgh, Gem marks the beginning of Wilson’s 10-play century-cycle dramatizing the African-American experience during the 20th Century.
MTC’s production of Gem of the Ocean, under the direction of Daniel Alexander Jones, boldly employs a theatrical jazz background, with music composed and directed by Kevin Carnes, uniquely suited to experiencing the complexity of black lives at that time, as depicted in the dramaturg by Omi Osun Joni L. Jones. The set, by Scenographer Kimberlee Koym-Murteira, provides period features such as 1904 scenes of Pittsburg juxtaposed against a liquid-prism wall reflecting the West African experience woven together with lives which go from oppression to find beauty and joy. Costumes by Katherine Nowacki are authentic for the period, and lighting by Michael K. Wangen is effective.
The play takes place at 1839 Wylie Avenue in Pittsburg’s 1904 Hill District, the home of Aunt Ester (the wonderful Margo Hall) and the dramas of, yes, this 285 year-old fiery matriarch. She welcomes into her home Solly Two Kings (Juney Smith), born into slavery and who scouted for the Union Army, and
Citizen Barlow (Namir Smallwood) a young man from Alabama searching for a new life and in search of redemption. Aunt Ester is not too old to practice healing; she guides him on a soaring, lyrical journey of spiritual awakening to the City of Bones.The various people who pass through Aunt Ester’s parlor and kitchen include Eli (David Everett Moore), Aunt Ester’s protector; Black Mary (a very solid Omoze Idehenrie), her housekeeper and protégé; also Solly Two Kings, a former slave, conductor on the Underground Railroad and who scouts for the Union Army; Black Mary’s brother, Caesar Wilks (Tyee J. Tilghman), a constable; Rutherford Selig (Patrick Kelly Jones), a peddler; and, of course, Citizen Barlow, a new arrival from down south who needs Aunt Ester to help absolve him of a crime he has committed.
Aunt Ester launches Citizen on a spiritual journey aboard the legendary slave ship Gem of the Ocean, to the mythical City of Bones. There, Citizen comes to understand the story of his ancestors and faces the truth about his crime and the man he wronged.
Gem of the Ocean is highly recommended and is being done in an amazing, moving production in which all the actors make it a journey really worth taking.
Photo Credit: Kevin Berne
Character Collages: Katherine Nowacki
Gem of the Ocean began its run at MTC on January 14 and will continue through the Matinee on February 14, 2016, at the home of the Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley.
Remaining Evening Performances: Wednesday through Saturday 7:30 pm
Remaining Matinees 2:00 pm: Saturday, Feb. 13, and Sunday, Feb. 14
For tickets, contact Marin Theatre Company at 415-388-5208, or purchase online at email@example.com.
Coming up next at Marin Theatre Company, will be the World Premiere of Swimmers by Rachel Bonds and directed by Mike Donahue, with performances from March 3 through 27, 2016.
Flora Lynn Isaacson