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Theater Review: Seven Guitars

Seven Guitars, the seventh play in August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle, is currently running at Washington D.C.'s Arena Stage. The story focuses on Louise Canewell, Red Carter, Vera Hedley, Floyd Burton, and Ruby in 1948 Pittsburgh. Tazewell Thompson directs the adaption of this August Wilson classic. Seven Guitars uses reverse chronology as it begins and ends after the funeral of one of the main characters, showing events leading up to the funeral in flashbacks.

Just released from jail, Blues singer Floyd "Schoolboy" Barton (Roderick Lawrence) is asked to sign a record deal after a song he recorded months before going to the big house becomes an unexpected hit. After a year of trials and tribulations, Floyd is ready to right the past year's wrongs and return to Chicago with a new understanding of what's essential in his life. Unfortunately, his means of righting wrongs are inherently flawed.

Floyd hopes to reunite with his former flame Vera (Joy Jones), while avoiding the watchful eye of Vera's neighbor Louise (Roz White). Additionally, Floyd wants to make amends with his friends Canewell (Michael Anthony Williams) and Red Carter (Eden Marryshow). Also in the mix of Floyd’s life are the niece of Louise, Ruby (Dane Figueroa Eddi), and Hedley (David Emerson Toney), a Caribbean immigrant neighbor who takes care of roosters and chickens.

One of the first things I noticed about the play was set designer Donald Eastman set up, which had the honest look of a backyard. Watching the actors in their scenes, I was taken back to my childhood when the elders would sit outside and have long conversations. The cast is first-rate, with each of the characters delving into the beauty of Wilson's writing style. That said, I do want to give viewers the heads up that the play has a running time of nearly three hours and is very dialogue-driven.

Final Grade: B +

August Wilson's "Seven Guitars" runs until December 26, 2021, at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth Street, SW, Washington D.C., 20024


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