It is quite easy to forget that you are witnessing a community theatre production when you see Seven Guitars at Marietta’s Alley Stage. Some audiences may walk out of the theatre feeling like they should see the bright lights that adorn Broadway’s theatre district and the massive, illuminated murals that announce $150 tickets, world premiers, and Tony Award Winners. That is the level of professionalism, discipline and skill that you will see in Seven Guitars and that will always be commonplace in any New African Grove production.
Set in 1948, this was New African Grove Theatre Company's third production of an August Wilson play. Directed by Keith Franklin, it opened July 22nd, 2011.
A Glowing Review
Seven Guitars chronicles the days that precede the death of a musician and his dreams. In those days leading up to the funeral of the charismatic Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton-- played by Nic Starr, the theatre company’s Managing Director--the conflicts and aspirations of all the characters unfold in a way that transports the audience to the center of the Pittsburgh back yard where the play is set. New African Grove invites viewers to closely walk with the characters as they sometimes vulnerably and sometimes with unmatched bravado lay their insecurities, pains and triumphs on the table like an exposed trump card. It is nothing less than pleasurable to allow these accomplished performers to evoke in us a myriad of feelings that switch gears from scene to scene as we experience the characters’ highs and lows.
Keith Franklin is not only the Artistic Director of New African Grove, but he also directs the dynamic cast of this production as well as stars as the verbose Canewell. Canewell is quick to share his knowledge of collard greens, herbal medicines, and the music business in a way that reminds us of uncles at the Thanksgiving dinner who spew a plethora of unsolicited information in ways that make us laugh and roll our eyes at them while loving them even more with each story. “I know a lot of things,” he says as begins to talk about roosters and the Emancipation Proclamation.
New African Grove’s production of Seven Guitars is an incredible performance by some of Atlanta’s most talented actors who undeniably give brilliant and thought provoking performances. Treat yourself to an evening with Synthia Williams as the sassy Louise who affectionately advises not to let a man use you up but to “shoot him first”. Watch Robb Douglass as the garish Red Carter give out stale cigars to celebrate his child’s birth and Princess Starr as Vera carry the burden of choosing to trust an old love. Be a part of James Womack’s depiction of Hedley who tries to reconcile his troubled past with hopes of what the future will bring. And watch Amanda Franklin’s debut performance with New African Grove as the fiery Ruby whose arrival in Pittsburgh is more than just a friendly visit.