Gem of the Ocean

The August Wilson classic hits the stage of Krannter Center for the Performing Arts

A picture of the ticket for the play

Written by Edward Huang

Gem of the Ocean is a production written by renowned American playwright August Wilson. It premiered a while ago, but its name and legacy lives on in those that admire theater today. On a chilly Thursday night, the play made its way to Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

I will say that I have never heard of “Gem of the Ocean” or August Wilson before attending its presentation at the Colwell Playhouse, but I now realize that this style of theater has its own unique flair. I noticed that the scenes were heavy with dialogue. I’m not sure if this was to give the audience a thorough idea of the setting and character personalities, or if the talking was just to create a background flow of information that allowed for more important parts to shine brighter. The characters were all different in their traits yet they blended together so well in the home that the play was set on.

The audience is addressed before the show begins

The props and costumes did a very good job in establishing the time and place of the play. Immediately, I could tell it was a story about the past, but based on a nonfiction story. The actors themselves were superb. Their tone and movement around the stage really set the mood and theme. It allowed for me to be pulled into their lives without being bored with the situation. I remember that Solly had his walking stick. To him, this was a symbol of power, individuality, and dominance. I felt that he needed that stick more for his own mental well-being than for physical support. Aunt Esther’s chair in the living room was also a memorable prop. I felt like it was a symbol of her wisdom and experience, especially when she was having deep conversations with Citizen and Black Mary. Finally, I thought that the dinner table really set up the center point of the house. When the characters gathered in the house, they sat around the table having conversation.

A closer look at the set

If I were to choose one character that really stood out to me, I would have to go with Aunt Esther. Almost immediately after her first appearance in the play, I could tell that she was a symbol of power, wisdom, and authority. Everyone around the house was obedient to her and I could feel that they all shared a mutual respect as well. She did well to give advice to the younger characters, especially when she was consoling Citizen about his murder of the man with the bucket of nails. I recall being very drawn in to the conversation. It defined a breakthrough of thought for me.

Overall, I felt that the play was enjoyable. Though there was a lot of dialogue, I felt that it did well to depict the lives of the characters at that time while also teaching some important life lessons.

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