By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Floyd's sidemen, drummer Red (Christopher Piper) and harmonica player Canewell (Elliot Gilbert II), come and go, always dressed to the nines and broke as a joke. They spin fantasies of getting the trio back together. Floyd has a letter from Chicago promising a recording contract if he can just get there. But the instruments are in perpetual hock and nobody can come up with the small ransom that would spring them from the pawn shop.
The other three "guitars" in this play are a sassy, timeworn neighbor, Louise (Eleanor Threatt), who let her husband walk out but kept his handgun; Hedley (Alonzo Waller), the 59-year-old basement dweller who might be dying of TB; and Ruby (Shundra Grubb), Louise's sexpot niece who comes up from Down South to escape man trouble.
Director William (Bill) Earl Ray has a fine cast that works off one another with the ease and intimacy this big, complex play needs. There are moments of real brilliance, particularly between McGill and Washington, and in the scenes of casual small talk among the men when they suddenly burst into three-part harmony and among the women as they chat about how to cook turnip greens and how to handle the men. "Floyd's the kind of man who can do the right thing for a little while," Louise observes. "Then that little while run out."
Altar Boyz continues through September 6 at Uptown Players. Call 214-219-2718.
Seven Guitars continues through August 30 at African American Repertory Theater, DeSoto. Call 972-572-0998.
Wilson liked his stock characters—the village elder, the goodhearted woman, the floozy, the tragic hero chasing an empty dream—and they're all in Seven Guitars. In its small theater in DeSoto, AART has honed the art of ensemble acting.