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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
By August Wilson
Directed by Joe Pinckney
Starring Michael Sapp, Dwayne Allen
SCC Theatre, Lake Mary, FL

Adrift in a world with no roots, the first post-slavery generation wandered the back roads of America looking for something, but was never sure what they sought. Love, stability, success, escape from the past, escape from the present, even escape from the future – can any of these make a people happy? A handful of these seekers pass through the respectable Pittsburgh boarding house run by Seth Holly (Stephan Jefferson) and his wife Bertha (Cyria Underwood). Pimp walking Jeremy (Valensky Sylvain) labors on a new road and womanizes, first kindly Mattie Campbell (Caffie Mincey-Scott) and then erotically arrogant Molly (Shellita Boxie). Mystic Bynum (Allen) cast herbal spells, Seth makes dust pans on the side, and Bertha makes the best fried chicken in Christendom. All this domesticity falls apart when creepy Herald Loomis (Sapp) arrives, seeking his long lost wife Martha (Michelle Nicole Falana). Both Herald and Bynum suffer from apocalyptic visions, and Seth is getting fed up with the nightly floor show. After all, he and Bertha go to a respectable church, and they are as close to any American Dream these characters will ever find. Travelling peddler Selig (Eric Kuritzky) connect Seth to the white world, and offers to look for Martha for a dollar. She’s out there somewhere, another victim of the shattering of black families. That stuff was supposed to end with slavery, but societal concussions that big can take generations to damp out.

While there’s a rough edge or two on this production, a few people stand out. Michael Sapp seemed almost psychotic as a wronged man out to reconnect his daughter to her mother. Equally compelling was Dwayne Allen as the country mystic. Good natured and well balanced; he saw the shaman’s world and attempted to bring that balance into Seth’s one-sided search for respectability. Valensky did what he does best – supply the supporting role comedy and flirt with the women until he meets his match in the proto-feminist Ms Boxie. Ms Falana was the sincere mother missing but not actively seeking her child, and Kuritzky gave white society a smiling face even if he looked more like an Austrian drover than a Jewish peddler.

Racism is less a part of “Joe Turner” than any other black play I can recall. The topic always lurks somewhere, but it’s subsumed by the story of shattered lives seeking restoration. It surfaces in the deeply symbolic hallucinations of Herald and Bynum, and in Selig’s second profession as a Finder. His Grandfather found slaves in Africa, his father excelled at returning runways before the war, and he still has a gift for finding missing people and produces Martha as promised. This Pittsburgh is a semi-promised land of work and opportunity where the demand for labor suppresses many of the harsher realities of societal acceptance. Nobody gets exactly what they want, but no one goes away unhappy. Not a bad ending.

For more information on the Seminole Community College Theater program, please visit http://www.scc-fl.edu/arts/theatre/