Directed by Gloria Weinstock, Multi Ethnic Theater, in Association with SF Recovery Theater
PIANO FIGHT, 144 Taylor Street Wed -Sat 8/30/12-9/9/17, 7PM
When black men work their way into the middle class, they confront obstacles not only from some whites, but from other blacks who could be friends, relatives or neighbors. Real-estate developer Harmond Wilks (an excellent Geoffrey Grier) experiences this in his attempt to run for mayor of Pittsburgh. “Radio Golf,”which Wilson wrote in the ’90s, is the final play of his series of one play a decade depicting the lives of African Americans in the 20th Century. Those familiar with his work are aware that an an element of surrealism runs through them- for one: Aunt Ester, the ancient lady who purports to be several hundred years old to whom characters refer or go for advice, but is never seen. The house at 1839 Wylie Street in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, where his plays are set, is as much a character in the play as is Director Weinstock’s excellent cast. Will it survive the redevelopment on the hill?
Besides the terrific Greir in the lead, there’s full-voiced, tall and rangy Gift Harris as Roosevelt Hicks, Wilks’ old college roommate, golfer, and business partner who not only lands a vice-presidency at a bank but also buys a radio station where he can show off his silky baritone. Other characters who enter Wilks’ life at this time are Elder Joseph Barlow (a mesmerizing Kevin Johnson) a chronicler of times past, who may or may not be related by blood to Wilks, and Sterling Johnson (an effective Vernon Medearis) an old friend who resurfaces after decades in Wilks’ office, wearing paint splattered overalls. Despite his criminal record,he demands to be hired based on his work in construction.
Nicole Harley plays Harmond’s wife, a politically savvy, professional woman who stands up for herself. Despite differences, the love they share appears deep and abiding.
Wilson kept up with the decades in this respect: the changing roles of men and women and the use of technology. Yet the old conundrums surface: Who are you to your family and friends when you have positive dealings with a white? Does one disavow a childhood friend who still clings to the past and has not become what one considers a success? And when class enters the picture; when things don’t work out, where do you stand?