The Piano Lesson (Anglais) Broché – 1 décembre 1990
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Descriptions du produit
Présentation de l'éditeur
At the heart of the play stands the ornately carved upright piano which, as the Charles family's prized, hard-won possession, has been gathering dust in the parlor of Berniece Charles's Pittsburgh home. When Boy Willie, Berniece's exuberant brother, bursts into her life with his dream of buying the same Mississippi land that his family had worked as slaves, he plans to sell their antique piano for the hard cash he needs to stake his future. But Berniece refuses to sell, clinging to the piano as a reminder of the history that is their family legacy. This dilemma is the real "piano lesson," reminding us that blacks are often deprived both of the symbols of their past and of opportunity in the present.
Biographie de l'auteur
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Meilleurs commentaires des clients
Il se lit très vite car on ne peut s’empêcher de le lire.
Il s'agit de l'histoire d'une famille noire américaine à l'époque de l'esclavage.
Mais aussi et l'histoire d'un piano pas comme les autres.
Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
The struggle of Boy Willie and Berniece over possession of the piano gradually broadens as they reveal the past, incorporating vivid pictures of the family's tenuous survival from slavery to the present. A dozen or more of the white men who have been most abusive over the generations have met their deaths by "falling" into wells, crimes of revenge attributed to the Ghosts of the Yellow Dog. These ghosts are supposedly the ghosts of five black men burned to death in a boxcar by Sutter after his carved piano, the one in Berniece's living room, was stolen. The most recent Mr. Sutter "fell" into a well and died three weeks ago, and Berniece believes that Boy Willie may have had a hand in his death.
The play's success rests on the well-developed family relationships and their interactions on stage, as they reflect the legacy of slavery and its aftermath. Berniece wants the piano because the blood of her family has been worked into its wood--it represents her heritage. She and Doaker have learned a whole new culture of survival through their move to the city, but they do not want to forget the past. Boy Willie, by contrast, wants to sell the piano in order to buy land for his future, remarking, "I got to mark my passing on the road. Just like you write on a tree, 'Boy Willie was here.'" He, however, still focuses on vengeance--righting past wrongs. The tension between these viewpoints provides the drama and, in a powerful concluding scene, conveys the message of this play, ultimately a "piano lesson." Mary Whipple
Wilson's overall story is the reconstruction of African-American identity and family life in the cities of the North over the course of the 20th century. Wilson's plays often feature protagonists whose sense of identity and families have been damaged greatly by the oppressions of racism and the atomizing effects of the industrial economy of the North. Over the course of the cycle, Wilson shows characters re-establishing a sense of connection with their ancestors, even back to Africa, and gradually developing the family ties to sustain them. Wilson repeatedly uses supernatural elements in his work, particularly as a device to advance his theme of the importance of developing a sense of historic connection with ancestors, including those originally abducted from Africa. This could easily be hokey, but his matter of fact use of these elements is very effective. Another recurring theme is the importance of music, particularly the Blues tradition developed by African-American musicians, which he sees as a vital and creative force in African-American life, often carrying truths across generations. Some of the most affecting parts of Wilson's work are his demonstrations of the direct and indirect destructive effects of American racism on family life. Even more powerful are those scenes in which his characters overcome these obstacles to reaffirm family connections.
Not all of Wilson's plays are outstanding, but all are at least very good. Readers will differ on their favorites. In my opinion, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Fences, and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom are outstanding. The rest vary from excellent (The Piano Lession) to the very good. Cumulatively, they are a really impressive achievement. Mention must be made of the fact that Wilson has been aided by outstanding collaborators. Wilson's plays usually go through a series of versions before the final version emerges. Wilson has had the benefit of working with unusually talented directors, notably the gifted Lloyd Richards, who was responsible in large measure for recognizing Wilson's talent. Wilson has benefited also from the existence of a whole generation of remarkably talented African-American actors. These people made it possible for Wilson to realize his vision. We have all been the beneficiaries of the work of Wilson and his collaborators.
This story takes place in the 1930's when the blacks are still living in a South where white people oppressed blacks and where no law existed to intervene for blacks. Boy Willie wants a white man's land, Sutter's spread. Sutter fell down a well, and he may or may not have been assisted in that fall by Boy Willie.
Berniece and her daughter live with her uncle Doaker, a cook for the railroad. He is the voice of reason. She is seeing Avery who wants to set up a church and is the voice of religion and prophecy. Various characters such as Wining Boy play the piano briefly and there are occasional songs. The ghost of Sutter is present at times in the play, and later his spirit plays a pivotal role. As the action of the play continues, all sorts of family memories and history are revealed.
August Wilson was a risk-taker who asked audiences to come along with him as he dealt with questions of ownership, possession, and family disputes while at the same time presenting a very accessible story with flashes of humor, large doses of humanity, and a dramatic structure with a beginning, middle and end. It's about as far from Absurdist theater as you can get.
Wilson created real people in a believable setting. There's a vibrance and a vitality to the people and a sound dramatic structure with a good set-up, development and climax. They are not phony people or cardboard figures. There's a touching homey quality to the play.
One of my favorite haunts in Manhattan is the Edison Café, a diner-type restaurant off the lobby in the Edison Hotel on 47th Street. Fondly known as the Polish Tea Room by its habitués, this was where Wilson was reputed to have written notes for three of his plays on restaurant napkins.
The fourth play in Wilson's "Century Cycle," and the fifth written, turns on the question of whether it is nobler to honor the past or look to the future. As we expect from a writer of Wilson's caliber, "The Piano Lesson" is full of family tension, careful nuance, buried secrets, and stirring revelations. The dialog also sings with the stunning passion of African American folk language, in a music comparable to David Mamet, but distinctively Wilson's own.
My problem with the play is the second act. Act One is unified, tightly structured, and although it appears slow moving, every line of dialog is packed with insight. But Act Two breaks down into a number of short scenes, looser in structure, at least one of which (II.iv) could probably be removed without damaging the play. And the conclusion is too abrupt. The threads suddenly wrap up very neatly in a way that feels sudden and unearned.
The TCG hardback includes an introduction by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. She makes some interesting points about the difference between reading a play as literature, and seeing it performed on the stage. She's right to say that details which can only be alluded to onstage--such as Lymon's truck or Sutter's ghost--become more real when read off the page. Concise and insightful, Morrison's intro is almost as worth a read as the play itself.
This play is of value both as a part of Wilson's magnum opus and as a literary gem in its own right. But that value is packed almost entirely into Act One. I recommend reading this play as a literary gem and as a great piece of American culture. But be aware that, like most literature, it is imperfect, and the greatness that creates the play is what makes its shortcomings all the more visible.