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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Theater troupe's season kicks off with August Wilson classic
‘Two Trains Running’ opens Jan. 31
Published Wednesday, January 30, 2019 10:00 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Brand New Sheriff Productions’ “Two Trains Running” kicks off the troupe’s new season Jan. 31-Feb. 9 at Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square.

Rory Sheriff wants you to experience Broadway quality in Charlotte.

Brand New Sheriff Productions’ founder and company shared two shows during the annual Arts & Science Council’s Connect With Culture Day—“Be A Lion” and August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running.”  Sheriff invites you back to civil rights-era Pittsburgh through Wilson’s work at Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square, Jan. 31-Feb. 9 (tickets are $28).

The company kicks off 2019 with their second rendition of a Wilson play. It is the seventh of 10 plays in the Pulitzer Prize-winning The American Century Cycle, which premiered on Broadway in 1992. “Two Trains Running” was a Pulitzer finalist.

 “‘Two Trains Running’ takes place the year after Dr. [Martin Luther] King was assassinated,” Sheriff said. “It shows the effects on the African American community after something like that happens.”

Wilsons illustrates the loss of a leader like King through the narrative of restaurant proprietor Memphis Lee, who refuses to sell out. While the story is set decades in the past, gentrification remains a current issue.  

“Wilson has a way of taking the smaller messages and bringing them together to make one big message,” Sheriff said. “The sub-story is that you have different characters who are dealing with relationships. You have a character [Sterling] who has been released from a penitentiary who is trying to find work within Pittsburgh. Even when he gets the opportunity, he is not quite happy with the opportunity. He finds a way to blow it.”

A consistent component in a Wilsonian piece is the leading female, in this case, Risa, played by Leshea Nicole.

“August does his plays usually with one female main character,” Sheriff said. “She represents the matriarch of women everywhere in the African American community.”

In “Two Trains Running,” Risa’s goal is love.

“She wants to find someone who can peel back the layers, and fall in love with who she really is,” Sheriff said. “She is just tired of all the creepy men who come into her life, or who approach her. She is dealing with that on a mental and an emotional level. She wants someone to appreciate who she really is. She even attempts to hide her beauty by marking up her body, so she is not as attractive. There are some mental issues going on there.”

Love plays a key role in “Two Trains.”

“It ultimately becomes a great love story,” Sheriff said.

Wilson also reflects the treatment of African Americans through Hambone, played by Dominic Weaver. Hambone, who suffers from mental illness, spends his time demanding proper payment for work he performed.  

“He was promised a ham, and was instead given a small chicken,” Sheriff said. “He spends the remainder of his time in the story saying, ‘I want my ham.’ Hambone is a direct reflection of African Americans today. African Americans have done work for this country, and that promise was never fulfilled. Hambone wants what is promised to him. …Weaver …brings this character to life. It is so believable that it brings tears to my eyes when I watch the rehearsals.”

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