KING HEDLEY II - A Noise Within Theatre - Pasadena

Reviewed by Michael Edwards

A Noise Within production of August Wilson's King Hedley II is simply stunning. From its staging to its set design to the dramatic excellence displayed by each and every artist involved, the ninth play in Mr. Wilsons' 10 play cycle directed masterfully here by Gregg T. Daniels is a marvel to take in and a joy to receive.

Set in Pittsburgh, PA (as always), the play tells the story of its namesake, King Hedley II, a recently released ex-con attempting to rebuild his life by raising 10,000 dollars through 'sketchy' used refrigerator sales so he can buy a video store and hopefully some peace along with it. But his return home is bittersweet as unfinished business from his former life and loves seem to block him at every turn. This is the plot, but as anyone familiar with August Wilson knows, the plot is not the thing. The examination of the American black experience as seen through the eyes of this uncommonly haunting Pulitzer Prize winning writer is the bird to watch here. As King Hedley's world on 'the hill' during the Reagan 80's unfolds we experience a haunting poetry reflecting the sometimes joyful, often sorrowful soul journey of the black American collective at this time and place in our history. 

Aaron Jennings' Hedley moves like a confident jaguar. Thoughtful, powerful, riddled by dark passion, but always in control of his next maneuver, flawed or whole as it is. A striking work. Veralyn Jones's 'Ruby' is a tour de force delivery of earned wisdom, superior human grace, sensual fire and a slow moving but always mysterious longing for love. Ms. Jones is a revelation here. Gerald C. Rivers, 'Stool Pigeon' grounds the production with an often magical but centered focus on time and place. A difficult line to walk. Mr. Rivers is masterful with it. Ben Cain's 'Elmore' is skillfully charismatic and wonderfully 'fast' with his wit. Mr. Cain plays up the danger and we fear his smiling unpredictability. Christian Henley's "Mister" is sharp, charming, and often joyful. Kacie Rogers' "Tonya" (Hedley's wife) matches Jenning's confidence and passion with her own claim to the throne. Her performance is a powerhouse dance of patience and fire.

The Direction by Gregg T. Daniels is exceptional. An obvious committed focus to tradition, one not only feels transported back to the time of the setting but also to the time of the play's premiere, 1999, when the focus appeared to be on delivering the poetry and words of Wilson in the grandest but often purest way possible. Each move being a chess move with characters framed to flow the words - the words - the words for an often haunting, always beautiful result. Masterful work. Set design by Efren Delgadillo is stunning. Top tier, cinematic opulence. A gift for the eyes. Lighting by Brandon Baruch flowed seamlessly with both set, actors and the poetry. 

Though one of Mr. Wilson's longest plays, A Noise Within's production of King Hedley II manages to lift the magic behind the poetry for a wonderful night of masterful theater.

King Hedley II runs through April 28th at A Noise Within Theatre, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena 91107.

Tickets:  (626)356-3100

Posted By DH Magazine on April 18, 2024 04:07 pm | Permalink