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Seven Guitars 

Heading back to the Hill District with August Wilson's 10-play saga

Wednesday, Feb 12 2003
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The Lorraine Hansberry is in the middle of a noble project to mount all of August Wilson's plays about the 20th-century black experience. When he's finished, Wilson will have a 10-play cycle; No. 9 debuts this April in Chicago (it's called Gem of the Ocean). All the plays revolve around the blues as a language and a lifestyle, and Seven Guitars focuses on the leader of a blues band named Floyd "Schoolboy" Barton. Like most of Wilson's characters, Floyd lives in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, but he doesn't want to stay there. In 1947 he cut a hit blues album, and now, a year later, he's been invited back to Chicago to make another one. But there are problems: Floyd's electric guitar is in hock; he has no money; his band is scattered and broke. He also wants his girlfriend, Vera, to move with him to Chicago, but she's being a pain. Wilson's script needs a powerful group of actors, because it moves through long scenes of backyard conversation in such a lazy, episodic style. This cast can't keep things moving for all three hours, but it's still worthwhile for Wilson fans to brush up on the Hill District saga. Seven Guitars premiered in 1995, and in retrospect we get to see how King Hedley II -- the title character of Wilson's 2001 play -- was born.

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