Written by Ashleigh Cox
Gem of the Ocean is a play written by August Wilson that was performed at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday night. The characters of Aunt Ester, Black Mary, Citizen, and Eli entertained the audience and the set gave the story an almost eerie mood.
The set, shown below, was breathtakingly mystical and caught my attention as soon as I walked into Colwell Playhouse. The boards were a gray-blue color that made the house seem old and lived-in. Also, the shadows were cast through the siding of the house in a mysterious way, which adds to the nature of Aunt Ester’s character.
The way the sides of the house are constructed also gives the audience a sense that the house, or Aunt Ester, is more secluded and shut away from the others outside. Through the gaps, characters on the street and outside can still be seen and heard.
The clothing of the characters not only showed the time period of the story but was also used in establishing a theme of independence. There were a few scenes in the first act where Solly talked about getting a new coat and shoes, which was spun into talk about what a black man should do with his freedom. It also showed the difference in wealth between characters such as Caesar, who had much nicer clothes, and his sister, Black Mary, who wore an apron and a worn dress.
I was not able to see the second act of the play, but the first half showed several challenges for the characters to overcome. It was why Citizen Barlow wanted to see Aunt Ester so badly and she left him with very specific and unusual directions to save his soul just before the intermission. Caesar gave a long speech about how he was self-made and everybody else was foolish for being upset with him. The play was fascinating and I wish I was able to see the end of it.