The seventh of 10 plays in his Pittsburgh Cycle, which chronicles 100 years of African-American history, this production, which runs well over three hours, is one of August Wilson’s talkiest plays. Yet the success of director Israel Hicks’ revival can be attributed to the consistency and quality of the cast. The setting is a Pittsburgh diner, circa 1969, that conveniently serves as a neighborhood hangout. Its owner, Memphis (Glynn Turman), is a shrewd businessman with a soft edge who has some lively patrons: mentally disturbed Hambone (Ellis E. Williams); Wolf (Felton Perry), a numbers man; Holloway (Roger Robinson), a street-corner prophet and believer in magic; and Sterling (Russell Hornsby), an ex-con with more ambition than job prospects. The only woman, Risa (Michole Briana White), is a waitress at the diner who bears horrible, self-inflicted scars on her legs. Not much goes on here. Most of the buzz is generated by the gilded funeral of a slick ghetto preacher named Prophet Samuel, and the pending demolition of the diner. Yet Wilson is a master storyteller, and this play is filled with humorous, engaging dialogue and earthly sagacity. In one hilarious segment, Holloway talks of a grandfather who loved being a slave so much, he wanted to die and pick cotton in heaven for a “white god.” And then there is West (Earl Billings), an undertaker who has grown rich on the misfortunes of the neighborhood. These characters form a curious gestalt that eerily mirrors the tumult of those times and the harsh realities of inner-city life. Edward E. Haynes’ expansive diner set piece works perfectly for the production. Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 Washington Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m., Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; through Nov. 9. (323) 964-9766. An Ebony Repertory Theatre production.
Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Starts: Oct. 10. Continues through Nov. 9, 2008