A Noise Within (ANW) is now presenting GEM OF THE OCEAN, by Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson. This play is the first chronological chapter of the author’s American Century Cycle, a 10-play series that depicts the African American experience throughout each decade in the 20th century.

In GEM OF THE OCEAN, Wilson presents a first generation of free African Americans who had to learn to navigate a country filled with racism and inequalities. It is set in 1904, in Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District, where the writer grew up. It’s a play that mixes history with myth, folklore, and spirituality. In it, Citizen Barlow (played by Evan Lewis Smith) is a man desperate for redemption, seeking the help of Aunt Ester (Veralyn Jones), a 285-year-old “soul cleanser” that will send him on a journey to free his soul.

GEM OF THE OCEAN combines spiritual and supernatural elements with historical events, allowing you to picture both the reality of the African American community in the early 1900s, as well as the beliefs and the cultures that strengthened them. And it tells you the story with the right amounts of humor and intensity needed to keep you enthralled throughout.

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Veralyn Jones and Kevin Jackson. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

 

The cast includes the compelling Kevin Jackson as Solly Two Kings, a delightful Carolyn Ratteray as Black Mary Wilks, and the talented Chuma Gualt as Caesar Wilks, Alex Morris as Eli, and Bert Emmett as Rutherford Selig. They are directed by Gregg T. Daniel. There’s also a strong creative team behind the play, and a shout goes to costume designer Angela Balogh Calin for that gorgeous dress on Aunt Ester.

Artistic Directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott stated that they “hope to see all 10 of Wilson’s American Century Cycle plays produced at A Noise Within in chronological order,” which means that you shouldn’t miss this first one. The show is two-and-a-half hours long, plus a 15-minute intermission, and you will be fascinated by every minute of it.

Single ticket prices start at $25 and are available at anoisewithin.org, by phone at 626-356-3121, and at the theater, located at 3352 East Foothill Blvd., in Pasadena, CA 91107.

GEM OF THE OCEAN will continue through Nov. 16, 2019.

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