The Piano Lesson
Tony Award nominee Latanya Richardson Jackson makes her directorial debut in
the Broadway revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning The Piano
Lesson, a masterpiece that not only tugs on your soul, it forces the mind
to venture into the ugly truth which underlies the story of America’s shameful
past. The play transports you through time and location spreading nuggets of
ancestral history along the way. It is complex but there is nothing more
complex than the legacy of slavery.
The star-studded cast, including Samuel L. Jackson, John David
Washington and Danielle Brooks, will leave you questioning and wondering about
this story, reverberating for years to come. This extraordinary
mix of talent brings forth an explosive production of genius.
Danielle Brooks. Photo by Julieta Cervantes
The Piano Lesson tells the tale of a railroad company, a preacher, and a
ghost. The play centers around an ornately carved heirloom piano dating back to
the family’s ties to slavery, and pits brother and sister against each other in
a power struggle between two family members with strong feelings about the best
way to make use of this majestic instrument.
The piano is stolen by Doaker (Samuel L. Jackson) with help.
Doaker is the uncle of Boy Willie (John David Washington) and Berniece (Danielle
Brooks). Doaker and Berneice live together with Berniece’s young daughter,
Maretha (Nadia Daniel) in Pittsburgh, where the piano resides. Boy Willie lives
down south but arrives in Pittsburgh with Lymon (Ray Fisher), a friend, with
designs to sell the piano so he can buy the land where his family was
Beatrice is dead set against selling the piano because of its historical
significance and its powerful legacy. Willie Boy, their ancestor, was ordered
to carve the magnificent instrument by his slaveowner, Sutter, and does so by
including the faces of his wife and child who were traded for the piano. The
piano itself is now much more than a mere device for entertainment but rather
stands as a legacy to the Charles’ family history. Samuel L. Jackson as Doaker
is the calming force in the middle of the controversy. His performance is
sublime. John David Washington’s Boy Willie is charismatic and powerful.
Samuel L. Jackson and Ray Fisher. Photo by Julieta Cervantes
To make an inanimate object the focal point of the The Piano Lesson
requires inimitable artistic gifts. August Wilson’s play is set in 1936
Pittsburgh but spans over decades, dating back to when the members of the
African American Charles family was enslaved in rural Mississippi. The
intricacies of the family dynamics between Berniece and her brother, Boy Willie
unfold in the form of their tempestuous war. The fate of the exquisite
piano carved by their enslaved great grandfather, Willie Boy, hangs in the
Scenic Design is credited to Beowulf Boritt. It is striking. Costume Design is
by Toni-Leslie James. Japhy Weideman’s Lighting Design is masterful. It
is showcased so skillfully in the scenes involving the ghost of Sutter, the slave
owner who was possibly a victim of murder in order to steal his piano. Scott
Lehrer leaves one thunderstruck with his compelling Sound Design, which comes
into play most effectively around the appearance of Sutter’s ghost.
The cast of The Piano Lesson. Photo by Julieta Cervantes
The Piano Lesson is a journey through time but be prepared to fasten
your seatbelts and hold on tight. The ride is nothing short of electrifying.
The Piano Lesson
Ethel Barrymore Theater
Runs Until January 29, 2023
For Tickets Call:
212 239 6200 or https://www.telecharge.com/Broadway/The-Piano-Lesson