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Family dynamics, strife take center stage in Playhouse drama
piano lesson pic
Larmont Williams and Sean-Pierre Fox-Wilson star in Playhouse Merceds production of The Piano Lesson, which opens tonight. - photo by Photo Contributed

August Wilson’s historic drama “The Piano Lesson,” which explores an African-American family haunted by the legacy of American slavery, begins a two-week run at the Playhouse Merced.

Set in 1936 Pittsburgh, “The Piano Lesson” is told through both dialogue and music, and explores family dynamics and whether to honor the past or move forward with the future. The centerpiece, an upright piano etched with wooden carvings, represents their entire family history.   


For Boy Willie, it represents something to be sold in order to buy back the land his family worked so hard to cultivate and maintain for generations. For his sister, Berniece, it represents a living memory of what her family sacrificed and endured through the years. The confrontation between the brother and sister escalates until the family, and perhaps the piano, will be torn apart.


“The Piano Lesson” written in 1987 by Wilson, is a part of the Pittsburgh Cycle, a series of ten plays, each depicting the African-American experience through the decades of the 20th century.


Playhouse Merced’s production is directed by Robert Hypes and stars Michelle W. Allison, GB Blackmon III, Elena Carter and Jeshamon Volkerts. It also stars, new to the Playhouse stage, Sean-Pierre Fox-Wilson, Larmont Williams, Anthony White, and Jordyn D. Allison.


Hypes said Playhouse Merced chose to stage “The Piano Lesson” because it fits into the theatre’s mission to “provide diverse productions that actively engage parts of the local community that are underserved by the local arts scene.”


“The Piano Lesson” opens tonight and plays two weekends through Feb. 9. Tickets are on sale now for Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.  Ticket prices are: Adults $22; seniors $20; students $12; and children $10.  Purchase tickets by calling 725-8587, or visiting the box office at 452 West Main Street in downtown Merced, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.


The show is rated “M,” for language that is used in context of the time and context of the characters in the play.