: Ashland Play: The Piano Lesson
Author: August Wilson
Of the three plays I saw this weekend, this was undoubtedly the best. However, it was not perfect. It’s an amazing play: Wilson won a Pulitzer Prize for it in 1990. It’s about a Black family in 1936 Philadelphia. A wild brother shows up from down south, ready to sell the family piano. He and his sister co-own it, but she refuses to sell it. He needs the money to buy a farm so he can control his own destiny. But the piano has a history for her family: their slave ancestors were bought with that piano, and it was paid for with their sweat and blood. The sister won’t play the piano, however: it’s haunted with too many memories. She also won’t marry, still stuck on her husband who’s been dead for three years. Thus the conflict brews. Meanwhile there are ghost sightings, and it turns out the piano really is haunted, and in the end, the sister must overcome her fears and play it, which (apparently) banishes the ghost… and her brother, who leaves peacefully without the piano.
Plotwise, there’s not too much to this story. This is a play all about the characters, and they are amazing. The varied personalities are all strong and bold, presenting plenty of conflict, and none are alike. Each has obvious good and bad aspects, just like real people. There’s tons of humor, as the outrageous situations are unusual and funny, yet that’s tempered with genuine drama, as the piano represents serious emotional baggage. I loved the play, the characters, the presentation, and the acting was astonishly good, but I found myself waffling over the whole ghost thing. Unlike the ghost in