The Piano Lesson

By August Wilson

Barrymore Theatre

Directed by LaTanya Richardson Jackson

Costumes by Toni Leslie James, Lighting by Japhy Wiedeman, Sound by Scott Lehrer, Projections by Jeff Sugg

2022

The Piano Lesson

The Piano Lesson

the Piano Lesson

The Piano Lesson

The Piano Lesson

The Piano Lesson

The Piano Lesson

The Piano Lesson

“From the moment that the scrim rises on Beowulf Boritt’s set, however, we can see the house is being split by something. Downstairs, in the dark, there’s the usual couch, the usual kitchen, the usual elegant china cabinet, but, upstairs, a ghostly shape flickers in a bedroom (Jeff Sugg did the projection design), and, farther up, there is a roof that seems to have been frozen as it explodes apart—the house is bursting its beams.” ~Helen Shaw, The New Yorker

“Jackson seems to know that the play’s own ghosts will make their way onto the stage, and he invites them up there. It’s part of the ghostly feeling that this production is in the shadow of others, continuing along a chain with the rest of Wilson’s plays and with previous productions of this one. There’s something of it in that split-open set by Beowulf Boritt, which leaves room for you to fill in the walls and ceilings of the sets of other Pittsburgh homes in other Wilson dramas you might have seen. And it’s in the design of the prop piano, too, which by contrast is disarmingly intricate. The piano, we learn in the course of the play, was carved by Berniece and Boy Willie’s great-grandfather. He re-created in it the faces of his wife and child, sold away from him to another enslaver, as well as images of their ancestors. This version is nearly covered in reliefs — all teeming with faces and bodies that spill over the sides, face, and legs — apparently inspired by Makonde sculpture and made via 3-D printing. It looks like a wall full of skulls in a catacomb or, maybe, an audience watching with expectations of its own.” ~Jackson McHenry, Vulture

“Even the ghosts of the dead make themselves heard — chiefly Sutter, who manages to spook everyone by chasing bad-boy Willie Boy all the way north to Pittsburgh to plague him. Designers Beowulf Boritt (set), Japhy Weideman (lighting) and Scott Lehrer (sound) have given the dead man a good welcome, and he seems to get along with all the other haunts in the house.” ~Marilyn Stasio, Variety

“Their house, as represented by veteran scenic designer Beowulf Boritt, is eerily austere but boasts an imposing centerpiece: a piano, embellished with “mask-like figures resembling totems,” as the stage directions indicate, “carved in the manner of African sculpture.” ~Elysa Gardner, New York Sun

“And the titular prop piano, which Wilson employed as a modest symbol for the ancestral sacrifices of those who perished on the Middle Passage and plantation fields beyond, has such elaborate and detailed carvings that you can imagine it being stored and later used on a soundstage for an upcoming movie, even if a modest one already was made. I’ve seen “The Piano Lesson” several times, but never with such a grand upright piano, replete with the faces of long-dead enslaved people staring out at a Broadway audience. As Boy Willie tries to sell the instrument, the entire house (designed here with a fractured flourish by Beowulf Boritt) creaks its disapproval as the ghosts of the past are awakened.” ~Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

“Beowulf Boritt’s set is a character in itself, a vertical slice through Doaker’s house, so we see living room, kitchen, rafters, and a section of upstairs. Look closely, and you see not everything is joined up. The home is fractured in more than one way. “~Tim Teeman, Daily Beast

“Beowulf Boritt’s impressive set, a skeleton of Doaker’s house.” ~David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

“The wood frame skeleton of the house (set designer Beowulf Boritt doing typically fine work) creaking loudly as it moves in on itself.” ~ Greg Evans, Deadline

“Working with the brilliant set designer Beowulf Boritt, as well as lighting designer Japhy Weidman and sound designer Scott Lehrer, Jackson lets us know from the get-go we are in a house that is truly haunted, not only by the family’s past but by the ghost of the slave owner Sutter (who recently died under mysterious circumstances). And the show’s final sequence – an “exorcism” of the piano – is literally earth-shattering. “ ~Brian Scott Lipton, Cititour NY

“It’s a modest home – well-kept, nothing fancy. Except for one furnishing: an extravagantly carved upright piano that stands in full view in the living room. Beowulf Boritt’s set leaves room for an eerie showdown.” ~Joe Dziemianowicz

“Beowulf Boritt’s rustic two-tiered wooden set offers a hint of the Southern rural and the Pittsburgh urban.” ~ Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater

“Beowulf Boritt’s two-level set, which literally depicts the schisms of the household, and the elaborately carved piano, practically a character itself.” ~Frank Scheck, New York Stage Review