Review: “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” at Celebration Arts

Have you seen my wife?

Have you seen my wife?

Photo courtesy of Celebration Arts

Thu 8pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm. Through 11/20; $15-$20; Celebration Arts Theatre, 2727 B Street, (916) 455-2787;
Rated 5.0

August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is the second in his 10-play “Pittsburgh Cycle” chronicling African-American life in each decade of the 20th century.

This installment is set in a Pittsburgh boarding house run by Seth and Bertha Holly, played with steady precision by Kevin Johnson (not the former Sacramento mayor) and KT Masala, and deals with the lives of its various inhabitants who are all from the South and traveled North in search of a better life.

Among them are the eccentric Bynum Walker, a mystic clairvoyant whose ancient spirituality is referred to as “voodoo” (Larry Robertson in a stellar performance); Jeremy Furlow, a young ladies’ man up from Texas (the enthusiastic Lewis Keys); and Herald Loomis, a mysterious stranger searching for his wife (the intriguing Andre Ramey).

Loomis is most closely tied to the Joe Turner of the title. Turner was a real man (actually named Joe Turney, and the brother of Tennessee governor Pete Turney), who—though slavery was illegal—captured young black men and put them to work for seven years on his plantation. Though freed from his indenture, Loomis cannot escape the effects of Joe Turner’s brutality.

Each of the characters is searching for identity, as Americans, African-Americans and as free men and women still dealing with racism and discrimination.