Deborah Young, shown with Savada Gilmore, makes her stage debut in The Actors Group production of "Joe Turner's Come and Gone."
Chance casting augments tale of black migrants
Fate helps to fill out the cast of TAG's production of 'Joe Turner's Come and Gone'
WITH A pool of local black actors that's relatively small, The Actors' Group producer Frankie Enos says she had to depend on fate -- in the form of two chance meetings on the street -- to help fill out the cast of August Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone."
The Actors Group presents August Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone."
Place: Yellow Brick Studio, 625 Keawe St.
Time: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 5
Tickets: $12 to $15
Call: 550-8457 or online at honoluluboxoffice.com
Her "gut feelings" were right. Both Jim Andrews and Curtis Duncan turn in fine performances in the second of 10 plays by the late, great American playwright, chronicling 20th century America's black experience. Andrews is physically right for the role of Seth Holly, the gruff millworker and proprietor of a 1911 Pittsburgh, Pa., boarding house. That represented a time of migration and transition for blacks moving from the agricultural South to find work in the industrial North. Duncan is especially convincing as wanderer Bynum Walker, whose character uses down-home roots, herbs and powders to help heal fellow migrants' "powerful dissatisfaction."
Walker tries to ease the pain of two people in particular: the mysterious Herald Loomis (Derrick Brown), who arrives with his daughter Zonia (Shiwanni Johnson), looking for the wife he hasn't seen in seven years; and Mattie Campbell (Jeanne Herring), who was abandoned by her husband and remains haunted by the birth of two stillborn babies.
LOOMIS, in a daunting black outfit of oversized hat and trench coat, is the play's archetype: a black man trying to break free from his slave past, desperately wanting to restart a grounded life with his wife, who couldn't wait to start her life as a devoted churchgoer.
Brown, with an intimidating presence akin to movie actor Michael Clarke Duncan, inhabits Loomis' haunted persona to perfection. And Herring brings a shy sweetness to her role as a character equally without foundation.
Savada Gilmore, who plays the swaggering young Jeremy Furlow, brings a welcome brashness to his role as he woos both the naive Mattie and the worldly Molly Cunningham. Deborah Young makes a solid stage debut in a small role, as does Deneen L. Thompson as Seth's patient wife, Bertha.
But it's the men of Wilson's play who constantly battle to establish their purpose in life, that, in light of the cross-country migrations that occurred due to Hurricane Katrina, bring a timely edge to "Joe Turner's Come and Gone."
The Actors' Group staged Wilson's "Two Trains Running" back in 2003, and here's hoping TAG continues to produce Wilson's important plays in years to come.