August Wilson's Jitney, which has been produced at more than half a dozen theatres across the country, finally pulled into New York City April 8, arriving at Off-Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre and opening there April 25.
Most recently, the show began subscription previews Jan. 23 at the Mark Taper Forum and opened there Feb. 3 for a run through March 19. According to general manager Roger Alan Gindi, the show is scheduled to run through May 21. After that, Center Theatre Group and producer Ben Mordecai, in association with Second Stage, have the right to either move the show or keep it where it is until October, when the new Second Stage season begins. (Stephen Sondheim's early musical, Saturday Night, was the venue's last tenant, playing through March 26.)
Directed by Marion McClinton, the cast of Jitney includes (in alphabetic order), Willis Burks II, Paul Butler, Anthony Chisholm, Leo V. Finnie III, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Barry Shabaka Henly, Russell Hornsby, Carl Lumbly and Nichole Briana White.
* The first play written by Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wilson, Jitney offers a look into 1970s Pittsburgh and the lives of a group of black men scraping out a living in a gypsy cab company (or jitney station). The play's central character (Charles Becker) is the owner of the unlicensed company who must deal with the city's plan to board up his business. He's also thrown by his son's return after 20 years in prison. Other Wilson works include Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars and Fences.
For tickets ($51) and information on Jitney at Second Stage Theatre, 307 West 43rd Street, call (212) 246-4422. The first preview, April 8, will be a benefit performance for the African Grove Institute for the Arts, the African American theatre advocacy organization formed in 1998 by the playwright and Dartmouth College professors Victor Walker and William Cook. Among the high-profile honorary Chairs for the benefit are film stars Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne and Danny Glover, plus tap master Savion Glover and actors Delroy Lindo and Phylicia Rashad.
-- By David Lefkowitz
and Murdoch McBride, Willard Manus