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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Ghosts of the Yellow Dog got Sutter.", 15 Dec 2004
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Piano Lesson (Plume) (Paperback)
Winner of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, August Wilson's sensitive story of a family's struggle to reconcile the past with the present centers around the carved piano which dominates the living room of Doaker Charles and his niece Berniece. The legs of the piano are carved with faces of their slave ancestors, carvings made by a distant relation who was owned by the Sutter family and working on their farm in Mississippi before Emancipation. Berniece's brother Boy Willie, recently released from a prison farm and penitentiary, has come to Pittsburgh with his friend Lymon, determined to sell this ancient piano in which he claims half-ownership. His arguments with Berniece conjure up the ghost of Sutter, who calls out Boy Willie's name.
The struggle of Boy Willie and Berniece over possession of the piano gradually broadens as they reveal the past, incorporating vivid pictures of the family's tenuous survival from slavery to the present. A dozen or more of the white men who have been most abusive over the generations have met their deaths by "falling" into wells, crimes of revenge attributed to the Ghosts of the Yellow Dog. These ghosts are supposedly the ghosts of five black men burned to death in a boxcar by Sutter after his carved piano, the one in Berniece's living room, was stolen. The most recent Mr. Sutter "fell" into a well and died three weeks ago, and Berniece believes that Boy Willie may have had a hand in his death.
The play's success rests on the well-developed family relationships and their interactions on stage, as they reflect the legacy of slavery and its aftermath. Berniece wants the piano because the blood of her family has been worked into its wood--it represents her heritage. She and Doaker have learned a whole new culture of survival through their move to the city, but they do not want to forget the past. Boy Willie, by contrast, wants to sell the piano in order to buy land for his future, remarking, "I got to mark my passing on the road. Just like you write on a tree, 'Boy Willie was here.'" He, however, still focuses on vengeance--righting past wrongs. The tension between these viewpoints provides the drama and, in a powerful concluding scene, conveys the message of this play, ultimately a "piano lesson." Mary Whipple
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars August Wilson outdid himself, this writing was superb, 11 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Piano Lesson (Plume) (Paperback)
August is awesome. That is the only thing that I can say about this writing. He outdid himself, the book and the characters were both lovable and believeable. I knew each and everyone of those characters they were my fami
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4.0 out of 5 stars Modern classic, 18 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Piano Lesson (Plume) (Paperback)
A brilliant play, full of larger than life characters (with great names too) set in a single household, during the aftermath of the Great Depression.

It makes for a funny, incisive and cracking read, with a resonant ending. And it would certainly be interesting to see it portrayed on stage.

August Wilson wrote it as part of the "Pittsburgh Cycle" and I will certainly be reading his other works.

Recommended.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book that would make an exelent play, 5 Sep 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Piano Lesson (Plume) (Paperback)
This play was very life-like and had some exelent points. The characters were vivid and each had this air of seeming to know more than they were saying. All together I would recomend this to anyone who like plays.
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"The Piano Lesson (Penguin plays & screenplays)
"The Piano Lesson (Penguin plays & screenplays) by August Wilson (Paperback - 31 July 1997)
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