AN EXTENDED RIDE FOR TRTC’s ‘JITNEY’
Tony winner Chuck Cooper (right) appears with J. Bernard Calloway in the Two River Theater Company production of JITNEY and sticks around to star in IN THIS HOUSE next month. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)
In August Wilson’s ensemble drama Jitney, the cantankerous cabbie Turnbo admonishes his call-in “trips” with a warning that they’d better be ready when he gets there, ’cause he ain’t waiting.
That said, if you’re worried that you might not make it to a performance of the critically acclaimed play in Red Bank, the folks at Two River Theater Company want to assure you that they’ll keep the motor running for you.
The show now onstage under the direction of Tony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson an offering described by Sledger reviewer (and dean of NJ drama critics) Peter Filichia as “magnificent” in his recent review and as “vibrant” by Anita Gates in the New York Times has just announced an additional four performances between Thursday, February 23 and Saturday, February 25. That’s good news for anyone looking to catch up with a production that some have branded a worthy candidate for a New York engagement in the near future although it could be potentially exhausting news for one busy cast member.
Winner of the 1997 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical (as Memphis, in The Life), Chuck Cooper takes center stage in Jitney as Becker, boss of the play’s gypsy cab station and an embittered father whose relationship with his son Booster (J. Bernard Calloway) was severed when the young man was sentenced to 20 years’ time for a violent crime. A veteran of ten Broadway productions seven of them tunefests Cooper will segue directly from the hardscrabble Pittsburgh neighborhood of Wilson’s drama into the snowy country-road setting of In This House, the next item on the Two River schedule, and the second of two original productions to make their world premiere in Red Bank during the 2011-2012 season.
Featuring songs composed by former Cincinnati Bengals tackle turned Grammy-winning country songwriter Mike Reid (with lyrics by Sarah Schlesinger and a book assist from Jonathan Bernstein), In This House details an unplanned but significant New Years Eve summit between two couples one pair just starting out but already navigating troubled waters; the other approaching old age while still dealing with disillusionment and loss. The “chamber musical,” which will be going up beginning March 4 in the Two River Theater’s more intimate “black box” Marion Huber performance space, was seen on Bridge Avenue last year as a one-time staged reading, with a different cast and what are reported to be some substantial differences from the script as it exists now.
While it’s still nearly three weeks from its first performance, advance interest in the musical has already caused TRTC to build a new addition to House, extending the show’s originally announced engagement to April 8. Take it here for ticket availability and reservations for any of the happenings at Two River Theater. More on In This House to come right here on redbankgreen and more on Jitney, in our interview with director Santiago-Hudson, right here.