Jitney

Set in 1977, this was New African Grove Theatre Company's eighth production of an August Wilson play.  It opened July 15th, 2016.  It was directed by  Keith Franklin.

Regular taxi cabs will not travel to the Pittsburgh Hill District of the 1970s, and so the residents turn to jitneys—unofficial, unlicensed taxi cabs—that operate in the community. This play portrays the lives of the jitney drivers at the station owned by Jim Becker.

We are rapidly introduced to the regulars of the station: recently returned Vietnam veteran Darnell (called Youngblood by the other drivers) who is attempting to build a new life for himself and his family, solid, easy-going Korean War veteran Doub, gossipy hothead Turnbo, alcoholic Fielding and flamboyent numbers runner Shealy, who is not a driver but who uses the station's phone as his base of operations. Conflict arises when Turnbo insinuates himself into Youngblood's love life, telling Youngblood's girlfriend Rena that he has been seen around town with her sister when he should have been at home with their young son. Despite his protestations of innocence, she accuses Youngblood, who has been acting secretly and has taken money needed for groceries to pay a vague "debt", of cheating on her, which he has done in the past. Youngblood attacks Turnbo for causing trouble and Turnbo pulls a gun on him, threatening to shoot him, but station boss Becker intervenes.

Becker's son, Clarence (nicknamed Booster) is released early from Prison after serving 20 years for the murder of his college girlfriend, a white woman who had falsely accused him of rape. Becker has not visited him in prison once during that span, furious that he sacrificed his life to provide for Booster's future only for him to throw it away on needless revenge. Booster comes to the station anxious to reconcile with his father, but Becker refused to listen to him, furiously blaming him for his mother's death, who died of grief after Booster was sentenced to death. Angry recriminations are thrown on either side and Becker disowns his son.

News arrives that the building housing the station is to be condemned by the city and the drivers resolve to fight the eviction. Youngblood admits to Rena that his secretive behavior has been because he has been saving up to buy a house, which her sister was helping him with as a surprise. Rena admonishes him for not his deception but acknowledges that he has changed, and they reconcile.

Tragedy strikes unexpectedly when Becker, who has taken a second job at the steel mill where he worked for 17 years before retiring, is killed in an industrial accident. Booster breaks down in agony on hearing his father is dead, but at the end of the play appears ready to take his place as the head of the Jitney station.[

New African Grove Theatre Company © 2014.