Gem of the Ocean

Jubilee Theatre in Fort Worth stages a marvelous, if LOUD, production of this August Wilson play, the ninth in his 10-play Pittsburgh Cycle, but the first chapter in the overall saga of the American Black Experience, decade by decade. Aunt Ester Tyler (Cheryl Tyre) is 200-plus years old, a survivor of the Middle Passage and an oracle to the first post-slavery generation of African-Americans. Set in 1904, the play focuses on a young black man, Citizen Barlow (played by the handsome Akron Watson), who seeks refuge in Ester's home, begging her to "wash his soul" for his guilt over the death of a friend. The ritual that Ester puts him through connects him with his slave ancestors and he comes out a stronger man for the experience. The production, directed by by Akin Babatunde, has an evangelical, mystical tone that's absolutely mesmerizing. Beautiful design work by scenic artist George Miller turns parlor walls into transparent, moving sea water. Through June 27 at Jubilee Theatre, 506 Main St. (near Sundance Square), Fort Worth. 817-338-4411. Reviewed June 5.
Thursdays-Sundays. Starts: June 4. Continues through June 24, 2010