How I Learned What I Learned: Personal monolog written by August Wilson. Performed by Steven Anthony Jones. Directed by Margo Hall. Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley CA. 415-388-5208 or www.marintheatre.org.
Through January 16 –February 3, 2019.
Steven Anthony Jones brings August Wilson to life. Rating:
August Wilson is world famous and honored for his 10 play history cycle depicting life of African Americans in the Hill District of Pittsburg with each play set in a different Century beginning with Gem of the Ocean set in 1900 and ended with Radio Golf set in the 1990s. Before he finished Radio Golf he wrote, with the help of Todd Kreidler How I Learned What I Learned that Wilson performed only once in 2003 in Seattle before he died in 2005 of liver cancer at age 65. Since that time notable actors have taken on the title role often receiving accolades for their performances.
Marin Theatre Company has brought along two Bay Are icons with the superb help of their artistic team creating a must see production that enthralled the opening night audience that gave them a well-deserved standing ovation. Steven Anthony Jones with Margo Hall’s direction beautifully underplays August Wilson yet gives strength to Wilson’s personae.
Although Jones (Wilson) is the only one on stage he brings aboard individual characters without the histrionics used by most monologists. Each character plays a major or minor role in the development of Wilson’s psyche. Each vignette is introduced with a projection of the title with the clicking sound of a typewriter. Early in the evening we are shown Wilson’s inner strength with his reaction to discrimination in his early work as a toy store clerk and the menial job of cutting grass. Later this strong response to racism is reflected when a bank clerk questions him when he attempts to cash a royalty check from the Mark Taper Forum.
The evening is divided into individual tales each adding another layer of understanding to Wilson’s experience with discrimination as well as semi-historical journey through time that shaped his life. Not to be missed is his experience with personal love and his love of blues music with an individual segment about jazz saxophonist John Coltrane.
The set is a story in itself. It consists of an old wooden platform front porch with a single railing along a series of steps signifying a stoop that could be found in the Hill District where he was raised. He often comes down those steps to be intimate with the audience before returning to the platform adorned only with a coat rack, a desk and a stool. There are sheets of yellowed paper strung across the stage in an inverted pyramid probably suggestive of Wilson’s huge volume of work that started one play at a time eventually including reams of his text.
CAST: Steven Anthony Jones as August Wilson and others.
CREATIVE TEAM; Margo Hall director; Edward E. Haynes, Jr. scenic designer; Katie Nowacki costume design; Everett Elton Bradman sound designer; Stephanie Johnson lighting designer; Rachel Hurado properties designer.
Running time one hour and 50 minutes without intermission. Performance Schedule: Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Buriel Clay Theatre, 762 Fulton Street, San Francisco. February 14-24, 2019
Ubuntu Theater Project Waterfront Conservatory & Playhouse, 2020 4th Street, Berkeley. Dates pending.
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com .