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The men of August Wilson’s stage play, “Jitney,” are a handful of ordinary yet extraordinary guys, the kind who find under-the-table side gigs, but never quit their day job.
“Jitney:” define it as a thrown-together transportation service that predates Uber by a generation or two. In this play, it shines a bright and penetrating light on the dark desperation of blue collar black men trying to make ends meet.
Rico Bruce Wade plays Becker, who heads up this cast of textured characters.
Becker, who is in late mid-life, is loosely in charge of the group. He suffers stoically through the horrendous consequences of a gut wrenching back story. He has a son imprisoned for murder, a quagmire which has defined the past twenty years of his life.
Ken Nelson is Booster, the son, clad in a cheap prison suit. He displays a loss of hope that is heart wrenching to see.
Lekeathon Wilson is Daryl Youngblood, the youngest of the crew, freshly discharged from the mayhem of Vietnam. He still wears his fatigue jacket and tries to find stability in a relationship with Rena, the mother of his two-year-old child.
Janell Hall is Rena. Together with Youngblood, the two of them reflect the economic and emotional challenges of still hot-headed young adults, maybe in love, sometimes not.
Youngblood struggles to comprehend and commit to the responsibilities of fatherhood. He bristles with electricity as he grapples with this charge.
In one scene with Turnbo, played by Guy Thomas, the intensity rises when violence is threatened. Thomas’ portrayal sends him dancing across the set, his character alternatingly attempting to seduce Rena, while confronting and confounding Youngblood over how to handle an accusation of infidelity.
A more reflective scene with Youngblood and Doub, played by Guy Stockard, brings out the generational similarities between one man, a Vietnam vet and the other, ten years older, who fought in Korea.
Stockard’s portrayal of Doub is subtle, suggesting someone who has come to grips with serving his country and then coming home to be invisible.
Chance Boyd is Fielding, an alcoholic who, as a cab driver, is an accident waiting to happen. When he becomes combative with Becker, Becker coldly dismisses him, only to forgive him the next morning when Fielding is once again cold sober.
“Jitney” dispels any stereotypes that one might have about responsibility, depth or commitment to family.
“Jitney” $15 Adults, $12
Senior/ Student/Military Thursday, Oct. 25, 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, 2 p.m. 228 Museum Dr., Lansing (517) 482-5700 www.riverwalktheatre.com