What’s possibly brave about the final play of August Wilson’s life, and consequently in his Pittsburgh Cycle, is that none of his characters (nor indeed black America) emerges unsullied by the whole affair.
At its heart is money and the role of the black minority in white, middle class America.
Property developers Harmond Wicks and Roosevelt Hicks are driven by profit at all costs. Wife Mame Wicks rides on her husband’s coat tails in her own search for power.
Elder Joseph Barlow is a trickster and a con artist, who believes that a kindly air can forgive a crime. And Sterling Johnson is an under-achiever, who is jealous of success without wanting to work for it.
He doesn’t necessarily trudge that well-worn, hackneyed and sanctimonious literary route that suggests to be wealthy a person must give up the moral high ground.
Fecklessness does not give a man the right to preach morality. Just as wealth and hard work does not give one the right to crush others. No stone-caster is without sin.
In her direction, Paulette Randall occasionally allows her actors to be static for too long and to be over-dramatic in the otherwise naturalistic dialogue.
Julie Sanders, as Mame Wicks, fares worst, and isn’t allowed to occupy her character. Sterling Johnson as Ray Shell - the Shakespeare’s Fool character whom Wilson often employs - also teeters between the play’s naturalistic home and an enforced theatrical delivery.
It does not deflect, however, from what is a well-crafted play that allows exposition to smash through the plot like a wrecking ball - and yet manages to maintain credibility.
This is due in no small part to Danny Sapani as the Obama-like Wicks, Roger Griffiths as his punchy partner Hicks and Joseph Marcell’s sage-like con artist Elder Joseph Barlow.
This trinity ably carries the play’s credibility on their shoulders, with their workman-like performances. They give depth to what otherwise might have been a shallow interpretation of a great writer’s final work.