Monday, September 23, 2019

"Jitney" at Arena Stage

Content warning: Alcoholism, gun pointed at a character threateningly, discussion of false rape accusation and murder , use of the n word (in period appropriate manner, all done by Black characters)
"Jitney' is at its heart about what we will and won't forgive. The play takes place in a shop in the 1970's used as a hub for a team of jitney drivers in Pittsburgh. It is part of August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle.
The program was careful to note the parallels between jitney drivers and rideshares today. The shop is going to be condemned, there are personality differences between some of the drivers. The shop leader is also facing his son being released from jail, and one character is trying to plan a surprise for his girl and their kid.

But at its heart it is about forgiveness. Can you forgive yourself for your failures? Can you forgive others for not conducting themselves they way you would have? For not taking advantage of opportunities you yourself wished you'd had? And what do you do when the ways the city around you claims its improving mean it wants to tear down your place of business. At one point one character says essentially, I have changed but you keep thinking of me like I was.

The cast is stellar. The set was amazing. And while there is still only one woman character in this one, the treatment of her by both the play and the characters was much improved compared to "Two Trains Running". 

I realize I've made this play sound tough. It is. But there are moments of laughter. You get to know these characters so well that as the one keeps saying he doesn't butt into anyone's business, you laugh because we all know that person. One actor also cried on stage and I had already been feeling it, but those tears sent me over the edge. It was an excellent production that after it's DC run, will be moving to several other cities.