|inside Memphis Lee's diner 1969|
It was not the worst of times but certainly not the best of times for black Americans in the mid 20th Century. August Wilson’s Two Trains Running is part of his 10 piece Century cycle of works. Two Trains Running takes place in 1969 and, as with most of the other pieces, is set in the hill section of Pittsburgh. It can be seen on the F. Otto Haas Stage of the Arden Theatre, 40 N. 2nd Street through April 10, 2016. It begins with a narrator and the narration ebbs and flows throughout the piece. It is the time of the civil rights movement which is revealed through projections above the stage and frequent mentions of attending a rally. There are many laugh lines peppered throughout what is basically a depressed tale for many of its down-and-out characters. West, ( E.Roger Mitchell) the funeral director and the only wealthy man in town observed, ”Too many people be dying from fear of life or I figure they could make something of themselves. I decided to make something of their dying.” Memphis Lee’s diner used to be a thriving business but most of the businesses on the block have been reclaimed by “eminent domain” and his diner is the next to go. Only a few regulars come in every day but Memphis (Johhny Hobbs Jr.) refuses to let go of it for what the government is offering him. He is determined to “fight City Hall”. Hobbs received the 2015 Barrymore Lifetime Achievement Award and he continues his quality performances. The rest of the ensemble cast is excellent as well. Sterling (U.R.), well known to Philadelphia theatre audiences, has recently gotten out of prison and seems determined not to return, but it does not bode well for him when he cannot find a job. Darian Dauchan, Kash Goins, Lakisha May and Damien J. Wallace, all move in and out of the diner and interact with each other, taking numbers, giving advice, and just tryiing to survive in a white man’s world that seems stacked against them. The production is further enhanced by the extraordinarily effective work of lighting designer Xavier Pierce and sound designer Mikaal Sulaiman. For tickets to this powerful drama, call 215-922-1122, visit online at www.ardenttheatre.org. or visit the box office at 40 N. 2nd Street in Old City, Philadelphia.