Arena Stage closes August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars”


Arena Stage announced on December 23, 2021 that “due to exposure to COVID-19,” August Wilson’s remaining performance Seven guitars – initially scheduled until December 26 – are canceled. Customers who hold tickets for the remaining performances will be contacted as soon as possible and will be offered other options. “We are extremely disappointed that this powerful and critically acclaimed production is coming to an abrupt end. However, the care and safety of the Patrons, Performers and Arena Stage staff are and continue to be our top priority.

Gregory Ford’s review originally posted on December 4, 2021:

The play tells us about the African-American genius to find a way out of nowhere.

“My kind of blues starts with disaster. It begins with the stacking of wrecks. One stacked on top of the other. It’s the starting point. The blues is a personal catastrophe expressed in a lyrical way… How do you generate a deserved elegance of self-unity so that you have a grip in the face of the catastrophic and the calamitous and the horrible and the scandalous and the monstrous. – Cornel West

The quote above sums up the plot, feeling, and action of August Wilson Seven guitars. Under the direction of Tazewell Thompson, the production of this piece now at Arena Stage runs for almost three hours. And it’s worth every minute.

(Left 🙂 Eden Marryshow, Michael Anthony Williams, Roz White and Joy Jones; Joy Jones and Eden Marryshow in ‘Seven Guitars.’ Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

Some have speculated that Wilson’s plays tend to be long because instead of telling us the simplified story of an individual in isolation, Wilson dramatizes the symbiotic relationship between the individual and the society of which the individual inevitably is. an expression and a manifestation. Seven guitars serves as a convincing proof of this hypothesis.

Seven guitars begins with a reunion of friends after the funeral of Floyd Barton (Roderick Lawrence). The events leading up to Floyd’s death are then recounted in flashback. Floyd returns to Pittsburgh with the intention of rekindling his relationship with his former girlfriend, Vera (Joy Jones), and returning with her and her musician buddies Canewell (Michael Anthony Williams) and Red Carter (Eden Marryshow) to Chicago, where he has a provisional contract to make recordings for Savoy Records. Vera lives in a compound with the somewhat bossy sister Louise (Roz White) and across the yard with the older and somewhat traumatized Hedley (David Emerson Toney). Louise is visited by her young niece Ruby (Dane Figueroa Edidi), who is pregnant and tries to escape the attention of jealous men. Floyd encounters obstacle after obstacle in his effort to return to Chicago. Desperate to earn the money he needs, he makes a choice which, through a series of related events, leads to his death.

While musicians and musical instruments occupy a prominent place in this piece (Floyd and his replacements Canewell and Red Carter sing and play multiple times; Louise opens the room with the sexy “If you want to try sweetie”; the recording Floyd’s hit song is played), it is their spoken language and the way they use it that becomes the transcendent music of the show and a demonstration of this symbiotic relationship between individual and community.

Director Thompson has created an atmosphere that encourages his cast to literally physically embody the musicality that is in the language. This incarnation demonstrates this cooperative and collective relationship between Floyd, the putative protagonist of the play, and all the other characters in this community. This incarnation by the actors is contagious, and under its influence, this show takes off. The actors don’t just say their dialogue, they almost dance it. Actors use their bodies to contain, illustrate, contextualize or underline the verbal message. It’s invigorating and reminded me of certain jazz and blues groups and their dizzying exchanges of solos. Each of the actors in this production makes careful use of their solo monologue in the middle of the ensembles. But on opening night, during Roz White’s monologue, the audience couldn’t contain themselves and erupted into spontaneous applause before she could finish speaking. The joint was popping, as they say.

(Left 🙂 Joy Jones and Roz White, (Right 🙂 Dane Figueroa Edidi in ‘Seven Guitars.’ Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

Each of the women had her distinctive and individual expressions of sensuality. Joy Jones as Vera carried an accessible, unpretentious, and contained sensuality that exactly epitomized Canewell’s description: “You know how to make your bed high and put out your lamp low.” Dane Figueroa Edidi as Ruby was a delightful and always surprising exercise in prolonged cheekiness. Louise de Roz White had the text at her throat and wrapped around her finger. And by the way she performed in that sequined dress, you could see where Ruby got her sense of style from. Each of the men gave us portraits of wounded warriors. David Emerson Toney’s Hedley was alternately creepy and empathetic. Michael Anthony Williams gave us an honest, stubborn Canewell with a fragile ego. Eden Marryshow’s Red Carter was a lovable, opportunistic jerk. Frederick Lawrence’s Floyd embodied determined despair.

Daniel Eastman’s ensemble effectively utilizes the circular cavernous space of the Fichandler, making it intimate. The decor felt lived in. The costumes (Harry Nadal) were sultry and eloquent. When everyone dressed to go to the nightclub to hear the men play, the sense of sensuality appropriate to the occasion was delightful, with each costume amplifying the excitement until Ruby’s entry into one. naughty red dress.

(Left 🙂 Michael Anthony Williams, Roderick Lawrence and Eden Marryshow; (right 🙂 Joy Jones and Roderick Lawrence in “Seven Guitars”. Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

Every man in this room has had multiple dreams crushed by the effects of the continued implementation of systemic racism and white supremacy against them. Every woman has known the fallout from this deprivation in the relationships she may have had with the men in her life. Each of these individuals resisted white supremacist targeting with continued ingenuity. Seven guitars is a kind of blues that finally sings us the African-American genius to find a way out of nowhere. I didn’t leave this show depressed. I left this elated spectacle.

Duration of operation: Approximately 2 hours and 55 minutes with a 15-minute intermission

Seven guitars plays until December 26, 2021 at the Fichandler Stage at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth Street SW, Washington, DC. Tickets ($ 105) can be purchased in line, by phone at 202-488-3300, or at the Arena Stage sales office from Tuesday to Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. for purchases by phone and from 90 minutes before each performance to the curtain for purchases in person. For more information on savings programs such as Age-Specific Tickets, Student Discounts, Southwestern Nights, and Hero Discounts, visit

The digital program can be viewed here.

COVID Security: Proof of COVID-19 vaccination and photo ID must be presented to enter the building. arena Completed security protocols are here.

“I have to live in hope”: Tazewell Thompson gets personal
(interview with Ramona Harper)
Arena Stage to roar back with a mix of bubbles and soul (season announcement)

Louise: Roz White
Red Carter (November 26 – December 23): Eden Marryshow
Red Carter (December 24 – December 26): Kevin E. Thorne II
Canewell: Michael Anthony Williams
Vera: Joy Jones
Hedley: David Emerson Toney
Floyd Barton: Roderick Lawrence
Advertiser: Edmund Bradley
Ruby: Danish Figueroa Edidi
Vera / Ruby / Louis lining: Renee Elizabeth Wilson
Floyd / Red Carter / Hedley / Canewell Voices: Kevin E. Thorne II

Director: Tazewell Thompson
Scenographer: Donald Eastman
Costume designer. : Harry Nadal
Lighting designer: Robert Wierzel
Sound designer: Fabian Obispo
Wig designer: Anne Nesmith
Combat Director: Ron Piretti
Stage manager: Marne Anderson
Stage manager assistant: Emily Ann Mellon


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