Eden Marryshow, Michael Anthony Williams, Roz White and Joy Jones in August Wilson’s "Seven Guitars" at Arena Stage running through Dec. 26. (Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography)

“Seven Guitars,” a play written by the iconic playwright August Wilson, opened to a full house at Arena Stage in Southwest on Dec. 2.

The nearly three-hour production invoked heart-wrenching emotion and thought-provoking messages. With amazing performances by the cast, the play’s examination on race in America addressed the role money has played on the disenfranchisement of communities of color.

Actor Roderick Lawrence, in the lead role of Floyd, effortlessly portrayed the character’s charisma and swagger while also providing comedic relief during more serious situations which revealed the character’s imperfections. Floyd conducts himself as a ladies’ man who wants everything but doesn’t know how to keep it. He claims he loves Vera but does not know how to prove it. In the play he becomes caught up with his ego and pride because of his musical aspirations and his need to be validated by his woman.

Joy Jones and Roderick Lawrence in August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars” at Arena Stage running through Dec. 26. (Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography)

He becomes convinced that financial security serves as the sole means of escaping his problems of poverty and that it remains the sole avenue to rid himself of the pain associated with racism.

Floyd bears a linear way of thinking about “making it” and living beyond the way he’s viewed by “the “white man.” Music serves as his passion but also counts as a tool he uses to achieve his true dream of being respected as a Black man and achieving material things as proof of his success.

Vera, skillfully portrayed by actor Joy Jones, appears to be a woman who wants everything in a man and naively settles for Floyd’s whims time after time. Floyd knows just what to say to keep Vera around. She’s soft spoken and exudes a spirit of innocence. She acts tough to counter Floyd’s pursuit of her but it’s clear that she enjoys the chase which contributes to their cat and mouse chemistry.

Michael Anthony Williams, who played Canewell, put all he had and more into his performance. The scene towards the end of the production in which he shares his true feelings to Vera and explains his perception of true love serves as one of the best scenes in the play.

Each character in the production bears significance to the overall story. Actors serving in the roles of Hedley, Red Carter, Louise and Ruby each hit the mark with near-perfect performances.

The play’s disturbing conclusion appears to serve as a message targeting the Black community which seems to criticizes Black people, when seeking to shed the shackles of centuries-old oppression, in some occasions overlook the importance of unity.

It’s another success for the Arena Stage family. See “Seven Guitars.”

Look for our insightful interview with actor Joy Jones on our website, written by WI Senior Editor D. Kevin McNeir.

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