What's it about?
An underground taxi company. The struggle for forgiveness between an imperfect son and his disappointed father.
What I experienced?
There are times you think a NYC snow storm will really delay your train ride and so you leave the house with a generous amount of time to spare. Apparently not this snow storm. If anything, I think my train ride was faster than usual. With two days to spare until February 14th there were sooo many couples. So many. I wouldn't have assumed a story about an underground taxi company would be romantic, but what the hell do I know.
I’ve followed the August Wilson train for a while now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that usually Wilson shows are either too long or are insanely inspiring. Jitney is number two. Still a bit long but all is forgiven. This story like most of August Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle”, it is set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - this time it is the 1970’s. The jitney business is set up by a man named Becker, since regular cabs didn’t travel into that particular neighborhood. There we get to witness a collection of stories with that jitney station as the backdrop. But deep down, the root of this story is one of hope and acceptance.
It’s an interesting thing that many shows set “back in the day” are probably the most relatable pieces to what's going on in today’s minority communities. I’m no stranger to that scary practice of gentrification - I live in Bushwick after all. In this Pittsburgh neighborhood the same thing is happening, which threatens the future of the jitney cabs. Beck has to carry the company (mind you he is well into his 60’s) as well as its employees, who he treats more like family - all that and bear the disappointment of a son in jail. When Becker's son, Clarence - who’s called Booster by the drivers - returns from prison after 15+ years, he isn’t welcomed back as warmly as he had anticipated. Beck blames his son for the death of his mother, who's depression killed her when she believed her son to be placed on death row. The entire reason for Booster’s incarceration is a messy one, and he definitely deserved to be jailed. But there is where the play itself refers to the use of, essentially, blaming the white man for the black man’s oppression. That tends to be a huge theme in a lot of plays, but usually it’s about those who are still blaming the white man, in this case we have the older generation black man telling the younger one to suck it up and show the white man he’s just as capable as he is of success.
I think at this time (today) especially with the Black Lives Matter movement is was refreshing to hear the "old days" opinion. I know that I cannot claim feeling discrimination at that level, but I think, regardless of that, taking responsibility for one's personal actions is important. Would I really be able to get anything done if I just chose violence to make an example of oppression? Booster chose such and all it got him was a rightful sentence and being disowned by his father.
I’ve been really vocal about my appreciation for what some might say is a “sad ending”, which I call realistic. It’s no surprise that after losing so many years of his life, Booster would lose even more. After being disowned by his father, I saw Booster become a little boy again trying to get his father to forgive him. To be ignored by someone you love is probably the worst feeling to pass through the human heart - it’s so intense, I swear it can nearly physically incapacitate someone. Then imagine having never gotten closure and knowing that you never could, because that person isn’t here anymore. There is this beautiful moment (seemingly in slow motion) where Booster finds out about his father and it looked like a damn claymation - frame-by-frame of the anguish he felt to know he will never be forgiven.
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What did you experience?
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