• people on stage gesturing at each other

      (L-R) Amir Abdullah, Veralyn Jones, DeJuan Christopher, Cherish Monique Duke, and Desean K. Terry in Seven Guitars (Photo – Craig Schwartz)

      Live theater is returning to Pasadena!

      By Carol Edger Germain

      A Noise Within (ANW) is taking all steps necessary to bring us quality, diverse theatrical productions, music, and exhibits, and also all steps to keep us safe during this period of getting back to indoor entertainment and social events cautiously so we can have a safe “new normal.” Their current policy is to require proof of vaccination and masks during the performance.  No concessions are being sold in the theater, so there is no time when you need to remove your mask.  They have upgraded their ventilation system, provide hand sanitizer, and they clean high-touch areas frequently.  They also leave an empty seat between your group and the next group of patrons. Right before the play begins, they announce that if you are not comfortable where you are seated, you can be reseated in a more distanced seat.

      “Seven Guitars,” written by August Wilson and directed by Gregg T. Daniel, is the current production, and as expected, based on the usual standards of productions at ANW, it is outstanding. The title is a reference to the seven characters in the play and how their lives, goals, triumphs, and tragedies intertwine, with a blues-themed backdrop, in 1948 Pittsburgh.  Even their conversations are interspersed with musical wordplay and bursts of song.  The primary character is Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton (Desean K. Terry), a struggling blues artist who was recently released from a wrongful incarceration.  He learns that a song he wrote is a hit on Chicago radio, but he was cheated out of his royalties. The record label wants him to return to Chicago to record again, but he’s short on cash to redeem his guitar from the pawnshop and is willing to go to desperate lengths to finance the trip.

      A man laughing with a woman sitting on a bench

      (Foreground) Sydney A. Mason and DeJuan Christopher (Photo – Craig Schwartz) (Background) Amir Abdullah and Veralyn Jones

      The setting is a rooming house run by Vera (Cherish Monique Duke), whose previous romance with Floyd is over but they remain emotionally connected, and Floyd wants her to come to Chicago with him.  One of the residents is Hedley (Kevin Jackson), an elderly Caribbean immigrant with some physical and mental hindrances.  He crazily proclaims that Buddy “King” Bolden, a deceased cornet player from New Orleans, will be returning from the dead to “give him the money,” making these proclamations while repeatedly singing a snippet of one of King’s songs. Hedley’s belief and fixation on that soon-to-be good fortune proves to be an ominous sign of tragedy to come.  Although all of the actors in the play are on pretty equal playing fields, I found Kevin Jackson as Hedley to be a standout in the production.  Other characters include Canewell (DeJuan Christopher), Floyd’s harmonica-playing best friend with a crush on Vera, the flashy, well-dressed Red Carter (Amir Abdullah), who occasionally plays drums with Floyd, Louise (Veralyn Jones), a down-to-earth neighbor, and Louise’s pregnant niece Ruby (Sydney A. Mason), who recently fled a scandalous situation in Alabama.

      Although the play opens with a funeral, and much frustration and misfortune befalls the characters as they make their way in search of happiness and achievement, the musical format for their communication lifts them, celebrating the positive and bringing consolation to the negative.  Unique and highly recommended! The play is running Thursdays through Sundays, now through November 14.

      Ticket info is available at anoisewithin.org. While on the website, check out their upcoming productions and community-oriented programs.


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