Wilson's `Radio Golf' coming to Center Stage

Set in 1997, drama ends 10-play cycle about blacks in the 20th century

June 22, 2005|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Radio Golf - August Wilson's newest play and the final installment in his monumental 10-play cycle - will make its Mid-Atlantic premiere at Center Stage in March.

"I wanted this play very badly," artistic director Irene Lewis said in announcing that Radio Golf will replace The Heiress in Center Stage's 2005-2006 season.

Set in 1997, Radio Golf concludes Wilson's decade-by-decade chronicle of 20th-century African-American life, an undertaking Lewis calls "enormous" and "unparalleled." Like most of the plays in the series, Radio Golf is set in Pittsburgh, hometown of the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.

The plot focuses on a pair of real estate developers - a mayoral hopeful and his business partner, a golf enthusiast who is the host of a radio program about the sport.

"As opposed to a lot of the other August Wilson plays, there are characters in this play who have gotten access to the power that's been so long denied to them," said Center Stage artistic associate James Magruder, whom Lewis sent to see the play's debut at New Haven's Yale Repertory Theatre in April. "So they have the opportunity - either there's personal enrichment or there's community enrichment, and they have the choice. And as is always the case with August Wilson, the answers are never clear-cut."

Wilson's practice has been to hone his plays at regional theaters around the country before taking them to New York (Radio Golf also has a run scheduled at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum July 1-Sept. 18). Though New York plans aren't finalized, Radio Golf will probably follow the playwright's usual pattern.

The play will be the eighth in Wilson's series to be mounted at Center Stage. The only other one produced here before New York, however, was Jitney in 1999. "Jitney underwent serious rewriting at Center Stage. ... Let me tell you how thrilling that was to watch," said Lewis, pointing out that Center Stage could fulfill a similar developmental role with this play.

Radio Golf is being directed in Los Angeles by Kenny Leon and features a five-member cast that includes Anthony Chisholm and James A. Williams, all of whom have worked at Center Stage in the past and will most likely return here for the March 24-April 30 production.

Besides replacing The Heiress, the addition of Radio Golf involved another change in the Center Stage season. Noel Coward's Hay Fever, originally slated for the spring slot, will now be produced Nov. 3-Dec. 4. It will be directed by Will Frears, who staged The Price last season. Lewis also announced that Ken Roberson, who directed and choreographed Ain't Misbehavin' in 2003, will repeat those duties for next season's musical, Once on This Island (Dec. 16-Jan. 22).

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