August Wilson wrote pungent, meandering dialogue that is sometimes likened to jazz improvisation. Gary and Bentley are immersed in Wilson's language these days as Berniece and Boy Willie, brother and sister at odds over a piano that is a family treasure.
The Piano Lesson is the sixth play that American Stage has produced in the playwright's epic 10-play Century Cycle that chronicles each decade of the black experience in the 20th century. The play opens with the rambunctious arrival at 5 o'clock in the morning of Boy Willie, who has driven from Mississippi with a truck full of watermelons to sell. In the parlor of the house is an old piano, carved with figures representing the family's African-American ancestors, and it soon becomes the center of a battle between brother and sister.
Gary, who was in the Broadway production of the musical Caroline, or Change, is appearing in her first Wilson play. A production of The Piano Lesson that has been playing two months at the Signature Theater off Broadway got rave reviews (it closes on Sunday).
If you goThe Piano LessonThe play by August Wilson opens Friday and runs through March 3 at American Stage, 163 Third St.


In addition to 14 competitive awards, special awards were presented to Old Hats (outstanding alternative theatrical experience), Roundabout Theatre Company artistic director Todd Haimes (lifetime achievement award), Neil LaBute (playwrights’ sidewalk inductee) and Theatre Development Fund (outstanding body of work).
So it's no surprise that Tanesha Gary and Bryant Bentley came up with a musical term when asked what it takes to perform Wilson's plays.
Their director is Mark Clayton Southers, who added his thoughts on the key to being a good Wilsonian actor.
He is artistic director of the theater program at the August Wilson Center for African-American Culture in Pittsburgh, and he knew the playwright, who died in 2005. Set in 1936 in Pittsburgh's Hill District, where all but one of the plays in the cycle take place, it won the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for drama.
He has returned for his second Wilson play at American Stage, having directed Ma Rainey's Black Bottom in 2011, a happy experience that included the wedding ceremony of him and his wife, Neicy Readie, on the theater's stage, followed by a reception in the lobby, during the run.
She has been living for three years, since the death of her husband, in Doaker's house with her 11-year-old daughter. To Boy Willie, fresh off a sentence at the Parchman prison farm, the piano is simply an asset that he can sell to advance his lot in life by buying farmland in Mississippi.


Hunter, won three awards, including Outstanding Play, and Dogfight took home two prizes, including Outstanding Musical. Both the wedding, which Southers scripted like a play, and his Wilson production got good reviews. The awards were presented at NYU’s Skirball Center in a ceremony hosted by Maura Tierney and Aasif Mandvi.
Student advance tickets are $20 and student rush tickets are $10 a half-hour before curtain.



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