Seven Guitars at Arena Stage
By Ida Jones
Dec 16-Dec 29, 2021
Roderick Lawrence and Joy Jones
for Seven Guitars.
Photo by Tony Powell.
August Wilson, the masterful playwright, riffs on seven characters through the musicality of African American life utilizing the guitar as the metaphor to express male and female emotions. Wilson’s work and the exceptional performances by Michael Anthony Williams (Canewell), Roz White (Louise), and Eden Marryshow (Red Carter) complemented the sufficient portrayals of Vera, Floyd Barton, Headley, and Ruby. Interestingly, the seven characters were like most guitars that have six strings with a seventh string added to create lush and deeper tones such as the landscape of Wilson’s characters.
One of the most memorable lines was delivered by Williams (Canewell). During the repast of Roderick Lawrence (Floyd Barton), he states that death is more equal than life because everybody got a time coming, nobody can't say they don't have a time coming.
Arena Stage’s Seven Guitars presents the tantalizing opportunities 1940s America offered with a rough-hewn set design recreating a communal backyard space. The opportunities were tantalizing in part from being close, yet the opportunities vanished through lost prison reimbursement tickets, unexpected family emergencies, and overall fragility in a changing America. The sharps of poverty, flats of systemic racism, quarter notes of criminal suspicion, and the whole notes of momentary happiness embody aspects of class, race, and gender consciousness.
One detractor was the inability to hear the prose of David Emerson Toney (Headley) - poor sound coupled with a wavering West Indian accent forced me to lean in to hear him better with little success. However, Arena Stage’s incarnation is like a refreshing musical note and nod to Wilson's mastery and our continual desire to reconcile our desires and lived experiences within the larger society.