Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Gem of the Ocean 

This patchwork of touching stories is a must-see examination of freedom

Wednesday, Mar 8 2006
Written in 2003, but taking place in post-Emancipation Pittsburgh in 1904, the ninth in August Wilson's 10-play cycle examines freedom in a patchwork of touching stories. The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright has created intriguing characters whose lives overlap in extraordinary ways. Aunt Ester, a mystical 285-year-old, lives with a handyman named Eli and a laundress named Black Mary, both loyal caregivers and friends. An urgent knock at the door reveals Citizen, a young man in desperate search of Aunt Ester's cleansing powers and sage advice. He's invited to stay at their home, where he helps Eli build a wall, learns of town news from friendly passers-by Solly and Selig, crosses Caesar (the local constable), and eventually travels to the City of Bones to confront his past and undergo a spiritual transformation. Michael Carnahan's exquisite set is a fitting backdrop for the interplay between history and spirituality. The interior of Aunt Ester's house at 1839 Wylie Ave. features beautiful wood, a dramatically steep staircase, ornately textured walls, and lace curtains draped over stained-glass windows. The entire space of the theater brims with lively story and riveting performance. Michele Shay (as Aunt Ester) and Roslyn Ruff (as Black Mary) deliver particularly powerful realizations of Wilson's women. Gem is a must-see -- or, in my case, a must-see-twice.

About The Author

Emily Forbes


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"