Jar the Floor, the latest by playwright Cheryl L. West (Holiday Heart), ends its extended run at Off-Broadway's Second Stage Theatre, Sept. 12. The play, directed by Marion McClinton and featuring Regina Taylor, Irma P. Hall and Lynne Thigpen, officially opened Aug. 16, and began previews July 28. The run was extended two weeks, past an intended Aug. 29 close.
West has a history at Second Stage, which previously mounted her Before It Hits Home. Though Jar the Floor has been around for several years and received many regional productions (including seven featuring Hall), this marks its New York premiere. West reportedly made substantial revisions to the script in preparation for the Second Stage production.
The play looks at four generations of African-American women who gather to celebrate the family's great grandmother's 90th birthday. The connections between the various mothers and daughters are exposed when the youngest member of the clan arrives with an unexpected guest.
Taylor, a playwright herself, has appeared Off-Broadway in The Illusion and A Map of the World. Her own plays include Escape from Paradise. On television, she starred in the well-regarded series "I'll Fly Away."
Thigpen is a stage veteran, winning a Tony nomination for the musical Tintypes and the award itself for her portrayal of a Jewish, black professional experiencing a mid-life meltdown in Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter. Her many film credits include "The Paper" and "Tootsie." Also in the cast are Linda Powell and Welker White.
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In other Second Stage news, August Wilson's Jitney, currently motoring around the U.S., will find a New York home at the Off-Broadway company. A spokesman for the theatre told Playbill On-Line that the drama will reach Gotham in April 2000, after a run at the Mark Taper Forum, which is co producing the play with Second Stage.
Jitney, Wilson's earliest play, was written in 1979. The work is part of Wilson's decade-by-decade chronicle of the twentieth century. It takes place in 1977. Set in the Hill district of Pittsburgh, where Wilson grew up, the play centers around a gypsy (or jitney) cab station. Through the conflict of impending demolition and the reunion of a jitney driver and his estranged son recently released from prison, Wilson presents a group of workers unified by their pride, humor and hardship.
In the tradition of past Wilson plays, Jitney has criss-crossed the nation, received several productions at theatres such as Rochester's Geva Theatre, Chicago's Goodman and Baltimore's Center Stage. Its next stop is L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum, where it will open Feb. 3, 2000.
-- By Robert Simonson, David Lefkowitz & Sean McGrath