OFFBEAT: Court's moving, memorable must-see 'Jitney' rides away this weekend

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2012-10-13T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Court's moving, memorable must-see 'Jitney' rides away this weekendPhilip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Court Theatre kicked off its 2012-13 season with August Wilson's "Jitney" directed by resident artist Ron OJ Parson, with "Jitney" as the fourth play in Wilson's Century Cycle to be produced at Court Theatre under Parson's direction.

I finally caught an end-of-the-run performance of "Jitney," and this two hour and 40 minute, one-intermission stage story is one that should not be missed.

This production at Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Avenue, on the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park, closes Sunday, so call right away for remaining seats.

Described by Wilson as "the play in which he discovered his voice," Jitney weaves themes of tragedy and transcendence into a rich tapestry of stories about a community struggling to get by and longing to flourish. Set in a car-for-hire dispatch center, fraught relationships, violent tensions, there are unfulfilled desires that emerge inside Becker's car service, an unlicensed jitney station that serves the black community of Pittsburgh's Hill District in 1977.

In Pittsburgh, "jitney" refers to an unlicensed taxi, which were plentiful in low-income communities where regular taxi service was scarce, in particular the Hill District of Pittsburgh, where August Wilson set the majority of the plays of his Century Cycle. Since taxis often wouldn't service low-income neighborhoods, jitney drivers even created cooperatives to support each other and to establish jitney stands.

The cast of "Jitney" includes Caren Blackmore as Rena, powerhouse Kamal Angelo Bolden as Youngblood, the imposing and believeable AC Smith as Becker, Anthony Fleming III as Booster, fantastic Allen Gilmore delivering the performance of his life as Turnbo, Andre Teamer as Philmore, Brian Weddington as Shealy, Alfred Wilson as Fielding and Cedric Young as Doub.

Jack Magaw has mastered scenic design with a fantastic detailed set and Joshua Horvath does sound design with Marc Stubblefield's lighting design and Melissa Torchia's great 1970s period costume design. Sara Gammage is the production stage manager and Amber Johnson is the assistant stage manager.

Curtain times for this weekend are 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Ticket prices are $45 to $65 at the Box Office or (773) 753-4472 or Student and senior discounts available. There's free parking in the garage next door to the theater space. Exclusive Corporate Sponsor of "Jitney" is Hyde Park Bank.

Now in its 58th season, Court Theatre is guided by its mission to discover the power of classic theatre. Court endeavors to make a lasting contribution to American theatre by expanding the canon of translations, adaptations, and classic texts. Court revives lost masterpieces, illuminates familiar texts, and distinguishes fresh, modern classics. Court engages and inspires its audience by providing artistically distinguished productions, audience enrichment activities, and student educational experiences.

Court Theatre is the professional theatre in residence at the University of Chicago.

"Jitney" was written in 1979 and first produced at the small Allegheny Repertory Theatre, Pittsburgh, Penn. in 1982.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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