Pullman Porter Blues

Seattle playwright Cheryl L. West [see profile ] sets three generations of porters on the Panama Limited from Chicago to New Orleans. The year is 1937. Four decades after emancipation, with slavery a living memory, her characters are clearly intended as archetypes of their time. The three men of the Sykes family are exemplars of how blacks began first to embrace, then chafe at the harsh working conditions of their day. No sooner does Grandpa Monroe (Larry Marshall) start training his grandson Cephas (Warner Miller) for the life of a porter, than they discover at the last minute that the boy's father Sylvester (Cleavant Derricks) has picked up the run, too. And union organizer Sylvester has no idea that his son is considering a life other than becoming the family's first doctor. Enter into the mix Sister Juba (E. Faye Butler), a blues singer whose volcanic sexual appetites are matched only by her skills as a songstress. While not a musical per se, Pullman uses a live stage band to back its cast members in a baker's dozen of spirituals, blues numbers, and work songs, several of which date back to the slave era. While not a musical per se, Pullman Porter Blues uses a live stage band to back its cast members in a baker's dozen of spirituals, blues numbers, and work songs, several of which date back to the slave era. These are tunes forged in the fires of oppression, and they are rock-solid and performed with consummate skill by a sublime cast crisply directed by Lisa Peterson. (Evening and matinee performances Wed.-Sun.; see website for exact schedule. Ends Oct. 28.) KEVIN PHINNEY

Wednesdays-Sundays. Starts: Sept. 27. Continues through Oct. 28, 2012

 
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