Review On AUGUST WILSON'S JITNEY


Leigh Kennicott

Registered Critic


August Wilson’s Jitney shows that some things old are new again. The ride-hailing business in Jitney occupies a soon-condemned building in a gentrifying area of Pittsburg. Becker (Steven Anthony Jones) runs the shop, occupied at various times by a half-dozen drivers who use their own cars to ferry people around the neighborhood. It’s astonishing to think that the personal, ride-share businesses that we consider to be so “21st Century,” were alive and well in African American communities 50 years ago.

Wilson’s writing reveals itself through layer upon layer: oft-told father-son conflict (Becker and Booster, played by Francois Battiste) juxtaposed with struggling young lovers (Youngblood and Rena) constitutes Layer One. The second level can be thought of as the illumination of social norms, circa late 20th Century. The last and most important, I think, is the structure Wilson employs in giving equal weight to each of the characters. Each player gets his or her solo, while the ensemble jams together in eddying circles. There is little left to say about this stunning production, imported from Broadway and directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, except it is not to be missed.

Leigh Kennicott has an extensive background in theatre, film and television and a Ph.D. degree in Theatre, awarded in 2002. A writer, director and actor, Leigh Kennicott began theatrical reviewing at Backstage, followed by Pasadena Weekly and Stage Happenings blog.
As a director in Los Angeles, she directed a neo-realist "Romeo and Juliet" at the Secret Rose Theatre; a new play,“Charlotte Second Chance,” at DramaGarage; and “How I Learned to Drive,” “Nickel and Dimed” and “Top Girls” all at College of the Canyons.
Presently, she teaches theatre topics at California State University, Northridge.