The Piano Lesson, the fourth play in Wilson's ten-play Century Cycle chronicling the Black experience in America, first premiered at Yale Rep in 1987. Liesel Tommy (The Good Negro) directs this new production that will continues through Feb. 19.
The cast features Davis (Passing Strange, Angela’s Mixtape) as Berniece, McClain (The History Boys, Cymbeline) as Boy Willie and Keith Randolph Smith (Fences) as Doaker. Davis is also doing double-duty on the production; the Obie-winning actress is the musical director for the original compositions she penned for the play.
The Piano Lesson also includes Joeniece Abbot-Pratt (The Good Negro) as Grace, Tyrone Mitchell Henderson (Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk) as Avery, Charlie Hudson III (Mother Courage and Her Children) as Lymon, Charles Weldon (Big Time Buck White, "Hill Street Blues") as Wining Boy and Malenky Welsh (A Civil War Christmas) as Maretha.
Here's how Yale Rep describes the drama: "Pittsburgh, 1936. An ornately carved upright piano sits in the home of Berniece Charles, who plans to pass it along to her daughter. But her brother, Boy Willie, has another plan for the prized, hard-won heirloom: to sell it for the hard cash to buy the same Mississippi land that their family once worked as slaves. The Piano Lesson is the intimate story of a brother and sister and their struggle to embrace or deny their epic inheritance."
The Piano Lesson features set design by DeDe Ayite, costume design by Jennifer Salim, lighting design by Alan Edwards, sound design by Junghoon Pi, dialect coaching by Beth McGuire, fight direction by Rick Sordelet and dramaturgy by Cheng-Han Wu. Other works by Wilson to receive their world premieres at Yale Rep include Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1984), Fences (1985), Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1986), Two Trains Running (1990) and Radio Golf (2005).
The late Wilson penned a ten-play cycle that documents a different decade in the history of African-American culture during the twentieth century, beginning with Gem of the Ocean (set in the 1900s) through Broadway's recent Radio Golf (set in the 1990s). The majority of Wilson's plays are set in the Pittsburg Hills District where he was born and raised.
In addition to earning the Tony Award for Fences, Wilson was also honored with a Tony for The Piano Lesson. All of Wilson's plays were Tony-nominated for Best Play, with the exception of Jitney, which played Off-Broadway and won an Olivier for its London production. Wilson is the first African-American playwright to have a Broadway theatre in his name. Mr. Wilson died of liver cancer in October of 2005, shortly after finishing rewrites on what would be his last play, Radio Golf, the final chapter in his ten-play legacy.
Yale Rep tickets are available by visiting YaleRep, by calling (203) 432-1234 or by visiting the Yale Rep box office (1120 Chapel Street).