Our last show on our last night was August Wilson’s Jitney. If you saw the movie Fences, that’s his too. Wilson wrote 10 plays on the African American experience in the 20th century, one for each decade. Jitney is set in the ’70s, and it’s the last of the plays to make it to Broadway. We saw it while it was still in previews, a week before it officially opened.
Wilson had a genius for character and dialogue. He also had the ability to surprise an audience, both with terrible turns as well as wonderful ones. Although it’s definitely a drama, the play was also funny, with jokes and teasing among these men who are long-time friends.
All good writing is specific and universal. Jitney tells a story that is about African Americans in a particular place and time, running a gypsy car service in 1977 that’s in business because white cabs won’t go to the black parts of Pittsburgh. The son, Booster, who gets out of prison for murder following a false, race-based accusation of rape. Those specifics are different from my life. But the universals? I know those. I’ve seen father-son conflict up close. I know about being young and in love and not having enough money. I’ve had friends who are closer than family, who encouraged and pushed me. I’ve seen my parents’ friends impact me as an adult in ways I never imagined when I was a child. I’ve seen a reputation change in an one unforeseeable instant. And I’ve dreamed big dreams that never saw morning.
This show is one I don’t know if you’ll get to see, so here’s a short video with comments from the cast. I can’t get enough of that groovy ’70s music!