Tuesday, December 1, 2009

M Ensemble: Gem of the Ocean (1 review)

M Ensemble opened its production of August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean on November 27, 2009.
M Ensemble continues its march through Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson's great Century Cycle with Gem of the Ocean. Set in Pittsburgh's Hill District in 1904, the play explores the emotional and psychological aftermath of slavery, as well as faith, superstition and the struggle toward progress.
John Pryor directed a cast that includes W. Paul Bodie, Christina Alexander, André Gainey, John Wendell, Michael Robinson, Vivienne Dawson and Chat Atkins.

Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
...once again, M Ensemble has elevated its game in the service of great material.
Director John Pryor, whose son Shawn has contributed a lovely original jazz score to M Ensemble's production, draws artfully detailed work from much of the cast, particularly on the dramatic "arias'' so typical of Wilson's scripts.
Alexander... radiates the character's unflappable wisdom. Gainey finds perfectly timed grace notes of humor in Solly, and Bodie makes Eli a quietly formidable guardian of the woman who represents so much history.
With too-fleeting exceptions, Robinson doesn't play much more than quiet worry as Citizen. But Dawson makes the most of two powerful moments -- first when she puts a lustful Citizen in his place, then when she rails against her brother's cruelty.
Like the director and cast, M Ensemble's designers have been inspired by the world suggested by Wilson's words. Douglas Grinn has constructed a tidy period home for Aunt Ester, and Apon Nichols creates the dappled shadows of leaves and the weight of an ocean with nothing more than light.

Wilson's plays, so full, evocative and rewarding, are both a challenge and an opportunity for theater companies of any size. At M Ensemble, Gem of the Ocean is a modest but undeniable gem.
Gem of the Ocean plays at the M Ensemble through December 20, 2009.

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