Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone Ends Broadway Run June 14

By Adam Hetrick
June 14, 2009

The first Broadway revival of August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone concludes its limited engagement at the Belasco Theatre June 14.

Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher received his fourth Tony nomination for his work on the revival, which concerns the inhabitants of an African-American boarding house in 1911 Pittsburgh.

Joe Turner began previews March 19 and officially opened on Broadway April 16. The limited engagement will have played 31 previews and 61 performances at the Belasco.

Roger Robinson earned a Tony Award for his portrayal of the shaman-like character Bynum Walker in the play, which also earned a Tony Award for Best Lighting Design.

The August Wilson work also holds the honor of being the first Broadway production to be attended by President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama. Following his Tony acceptance speech, cast member Roger Robinson said he was struck by the irony that the President's first visit to a Broadway show occurred at the century-old Belasco, a theatre that was built with a separate entrance for African-Americans: "I appreciate the irony, and I think [playwright] August Wilson would have appreciated the irony . . . . Only in this wonderful country could that happen."

In addition to Robinson, the cast of Joe Turner features Chad L. Coleman (Two Trains Running) as Herald Loomis, Marsha Stephanie Blake (The Crucible), Michael Cummings (Emancipation), Aunjanue Ellis (The Tempest), Danai Gurira (In the Continuum), Andre Holland (Wig Out), Arliss Howard (A Number), Ernie Hudson (The Great White Hope), LaTanya Richardson Jackson (For Colored Girls…) and Amari Rose Leigh ("Law and Order").

Joe Turner, according to Lincoln Center, "tells the story of Herald Loomis who, after serving seven years hard labor, has journeyed North with his young daughter and arrives at a Pittsburgh boarding house filled with memorable characters who aid him in his search for his inner freedom."

The production has set design by Michael Yeargan, costume design by Catherine Zuber, lighting design by Brian MacDevitt and sound design by Leon Rothenberg and Scott Lehrer.

Each play in late playwright August Wilson's Century Cycle documents a decade in the history of African-American culture during the 20th century, beginning with Gem of the Ocean, 1904; through Broadway's recent Radio Golf, 1997. The majority of Wilson's plays are set in the Pittsburgh Hill District where the playwright was born and raised.

Wilson won the Tony Award for Fences, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Fences and 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. The playwright died of liver cancer in October 2005, shortly after finishing rewrites on what would be his last play, Radio Golf, the final chapter in his ten-play legacy.

The original production of Joe Turner's Come and Gone premiered on Broadway March 18, 1988 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, running for 105 performances. Under the direction of Lloyd Richards, the production earned Tony nominations for Best Play, Best Director, Best Featured Actor and took the Best Featured Actress Tony Award for L. Scott Caldwell.

Visit LCT. The Belasco Theatre is located at 111 West 44th Street.