The Krannert Center takes the audience through the journey of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean.
written by Allison Spillane
August Wilson is a heavy-hitter when it comes to play writing, so I was very interested to see one in person. Almost all of my experience with theater has been contemporary plays, so seeing something rooted in a little more history was exciting. Furthermore, this rendition of Gem of the Ocean featured one of Allen’s beloved RA’s! With all of this expectation, I was surprised with how this show still impressed me. Every aspect of it was so well thought out in a way that made for an astounding cohesive show.
The set design for this play was astounding. Hats off to the tech crew! Everything from the exposed, open boards of the house to the minute details of old cast iron pans to the absolutely stunning costumes brought this play, and its time period to life. The set really gave the sense of living in an outdated area, with exposed beams and only the essentials of living. The lighting was beautiful, changing to set the mood and tone for each scene, from soft lights for calm moments to the entire stage glowing like an ember in warm tones to signify the mill fire. The surroundings of the play does more than some might expect.
To compliment the astounding work on the set and design of Gem of the Ocean, the actual performance was top-notch as well. While every performance was great, the one that stands out to me the most was the cast member who played Caesar Wilks, the ruthless businessman brother to Black Mary. The way he portrayed the internalized anger and ambition in the character so well was impressive, and on top of that remained at least somewhat understandable. The dynamics of the fluid and graceful way he moved matched with the sharp, unwavering confidence really set the tone for the character and the interactions he had with others on stage. He really sold the ideals behind the character of Caesar Wilks.