Joe Turners Come and Gone, the second in August Wilsons Century Cycle," is an effective and moving play. The wandering deacon Harold Loomis, confined to Joe Turners work farm for seven years, has now come north with his daughter to search of his wife, but what he needs most of allas the old conjure man Bynum Walker knowsis a new song, a new spiritual anthem. Martha Pentecost, his born-again wife, needs to be united with her daughter and to come to terms with Loomis and her past. Still, Harolds and MarthasLoomis narratives are compelling when they come, and the many interesting characters of the boardinghouse present the audience with a vivid portrait of black America in the second decade of the 20th century. Ill conclude with what the old conjure man Bynum has to say about the importance of a song: I didnt know what I was searching for.
Set in 1911, Joe Turners Come and Gone takes place in a Pittsburgh boarding house run by Seth and Bertha Holly, an island of stability in a house-full of restless transients. Herald and Sonia Loomis are a father and daughter come to look for wife and mother, having been separated when Herald was taken off by Joe Turners chain gang years before. In Joe Turners Come and Gone the displaced play out their search in prose that is near to poetry. Eugene ONeill imagined such an epic cycle of plays but his creative life did not last long enough to execute it.
I do enjoy all of the brilliant August Wilson's plays. This one...I feel like August was a little more symbolic than maybe I can grasp on one read through. So far, I believe that anything that August Wilson put his pen to was a skilled account of some story viewed through the window of real people's lives.
Wilson's Pittsburgh cycle of plays each takes place in Pittsburgh in a different decade of the 20th century. This play is most similar to Gem of the Ocean, the Pittsburgh cycle play which takes place right after the turn of the century, in that it portrays the deep cultural memory of slavery, family separation and the further separations in the wake of the Great Migration north. White people never come off well in Wilson's plays. Like Victor Hugo with the 19th-century French proletariat, Wilson has great compassion for the lower and working class blacks of 20th-century Pittsburgh, and that compassion illuminates and dignifies all of his work.
This is the play set in the teens in Wilson's long decade by decade Pittsburgh cycle. Here, the owners and residents of a rooming house are stirred up by the arrival of Loomis, a mysterious man who we come to find is trying to find his wife after years on a chain gang. I'm not sure that I'm sure about what Wilson is getting at with the very last moments of the play, but otherwise, I was completely captivated by it.
As with the first play, Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner's Come and Gone is full of memorable characters living out their slice of African American life in 1911 Pittsburgh. The setting is a black boardinghouse run by Seth Holly and his wife, Bertha. The most difficult to comprehend is the life of Herald Loomis, who, seven years ago, for no reason whatsoever, was randomly plucked off the street he was walking down and consigned to a chain gang.
As I read Wilson's work it is becoming clear that the supernatural moments in some of the plays act as the peak of the plot.
His literary legacy is the ten play series, The Pittsburgh Cycle, for which he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel, Jr. in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the fourth of six children to German immigrant baker, Frederick August Kittel, Sr. and Daisy Wilson, an African American cleaning woman, from North Carolina. In 1968, Wilson co-founded the Black Horizon Theater in the Hill District of Pittsburgh along with his friend Rob Penny. Among these early efforts was Jitney ,which he revised more than two decades later as part of his 10-play cycle on 20th century Pittsburgh. In 1976 Vernell Lillie, founder of the Kuntu Repertory Theatre at the University of Pittsburgh two years earlier, directed Wilson's The Homecoming.