King Hedley II
Portland Playhouse has established itself as one of the most daring and dynamic theater companies in town (including winning our pick for Best Theater Company in 2012), in no small part through its masterful tackling of Pulitzer-winning playwright August Wilson’s 10-play “Century Cycle.” Completed just before his death, the cycle poetically documents the African-American experience, one decade at a time, mostly set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Having staged Gem of the Ocean, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Radio Golf to glowing reviews, Portland Playhouse now takes on one of Wilson’s darkest works, King Hedley II, about an ex-con trying to rebuild his life amid the blight and violence of the 1980s.
The play revisits several characters introduced in Wilson’s Seven Guitars, staged in October by Artists Rep, and thus serves as the perfect bookend to close out the August Wilson Red Door Festival, a twelve-week fest of theater, art, and discussion-based events centered on Wilson’s work and issues of race in the 21st century. Playing those characters are some talented Playhouse veterans, including Vin Shambry, Ramona Lisa, and Victor Mack (the latter two won best acting and best directing, respectively, from Portland’s theater awards, the Drammys, for the Playhouse’s Brother/Sister Plays last season), as well as some big-name debuts: Emmy–winner and Oregon Shakespeare Festival favorite Peter Macon as Hedley, and John Cothran Jr., whose credits include Yes Man, Boyz n the Hood, and a slew of TV shows.
"It’s unlikely that you’ll see a production this gripping in a setting this intimate again any time soon," writes Arts and Culture Editor Aaron Scott in his review on Culturephile.