PAST Productions’ Heartfelt and Charming ‘Two Old Black Guys Just Sitting Around Talking’
PAST Productions closes their 2017 with a fantastic revival of Gus Edwards’ Two Old Black Guys Just Sitting Around Talking directed by Patricia Wallace-Winbush.
The eponymous “guys” are long-term friends, rivals, and sometimes enemies Henry (Tony Roseboro) and Abe (Truman Winbush, Jr). When we meet them on a park bench, Henry’s first words are about a woman he doesn’t name because he doesn’t need to. He and Abe needle each other about a decades-ago love triangle, divergent career paths, and everything else in the way only someone who knows the other person inside and out could.
Over two acts in a tight but never rushed hour forty-five with an intermission, Two Old Black Guys Just Sitting Around Talking, does what theatre does better than any other art form: it makes us know these characters. The sense of being in a room and breathing the same air as these people gives it a palpable charge. A specifically black piece of art that also resonates with anyone who’s ever had a crotchety older relative or friend.
Wallace-Winbush’s note-perfect direction gives everyone that space to breathe, she trusts Edwards’ words and her cast and the audience’s intelligence to not underscore or hammer home any point. She knows what that bench means to a person who finds themselves there every day, the way someone lays claim to it but knows it’s never their home. She uses the handful of sequences where the characters step into other physical space like punctuation. Because she never treats the bench as a limitation, the moments the characters break that plane are as exciting as bursts of fireworks.
With seven scenes of what the title promises, the two actors have to carry everything with no flash or fancy choreography. Edwards’ stripped-to-the-bone script needs everything to count and Roseboro and Winbush more than rise to the challenge. There’s a sense of glowing joy, of these characters entertaining each other even when their blood is boiling. By the end of the play, we all feel like we understand these two men and their whole lives.
Just like the title, there’s no hiding anywhere here. It’s a warm, empathic ride that will stick in the audience’s head for a long time after walking out of the theater doors.
Two Old Black Guys Just Sitting Around Talking runs through November 11 with performances at 7:00 p.m. Friday and 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Saturday. For tickets and more info, visit brownpapertickets.com.