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“Two Trains Running” at Syracuse Stage

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Syracuse Stage continues its commitment to producing a playwright’s collection of 10 plays — one for each decade of the 20th century — chronicling the African-American experience with its latest production that runs through Feb. 17.

“Two Trains Running,” which opened Thursday, is the seventh August Wilson play produced by Syracuse Stage. Mr. Wilson’s accolades include two Pulitzer Prizes for drama (“Fences” and “The Piano Lesson”) and several Drama Desk awards.

Mr. Wilson, a native of Pittsburgh, died in 2005. Nine of his 10 plays chronicling the 20th century are set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, near his childhood home.

“Two Trains Running” was nominated for the 1992 Tony Award for Best Play and the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A reviewer for the New York Times called it “glorious storytelling” and “a penetrating revelation of a world hidden to those outside it.”

“Two Trains Running” takes place in 1969 in Memphis Lee’s Diner in the Hill District. It is one of Mr. Wilson’s most humorous plays, with banter among the locals serving as a device for the exchange of political ideas and thoughts about the possibilities of a new era.

“Like Shakespeare, (Henrik) Ibsen or Eugene O’Neill, Wilson asks profound questions about the human condition,” Syracuse Stage producing artistic director Timothy Bond said in a press release.

For “Two Trains Running,” Mr. Bond assembled a design team and cast with more than 50 August Wilson credits among them. The cast of seven features Abdul Salaam El Razzac, William Hall Jr., G. Valmont Thomas, Leland Grant, Robert Manning Jr., Erika LaVonn and Godfrey L. Simmons Jr.

As the play unfolds, Mr. Lee’s diner is scheduled to be torn down as part of an urban renewal project, but he is determined to make the city pay him what the property is worth. Diner characters include Mr. Manning as Sterling, an ex-con who has embraced the teachings of Malcom X; Mr. Gantt as Wolf, a numbers runner; and Ms. LaVonn as Risa, who has scarred her legs to distance herself from men.

“Two Trains Running” premiered on Broadway in 1992 with a cast that included Samuel L. Jackson and Laurence Fishburne.

As part of Mr. Wilson’s “20th Century Cycle,” Syracuse Stage also has produced “Radio Golf,” “Fences,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Gem of the Ocean,” “Jitney” and “The Piano Lesson.”

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In partnership with Syracuse Stage, the Onondaga Historical Association has produced a seven-panel exhibit that will be on display in the lobby of Archbold Theatre during the run of “Two Trains Running.” The “Images of Freedom” collection was done by students in Syracuse’s Community Folk Art Center’s Creative Arts Academy. Students studied famous black painters from the 1960s and were asked to paint a picture of what freedom means to them in the context of the civil rights movement.

The details
WHAT: Syracuse Stage presents “Two Trains Running” by August Wilson.
WHEN: The play opened Wednesday and runs through Feb. 17 at Archbold Theatre, 820 E. Genesee St. The days and times: 3 and 8 p.m. today; 2 p.m. Sunday; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Feb. 9; 2 and 7 p.m. Feb. 10; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12, 13 and 14; 8 p.m. Feb. 15; 3 and 8 p.m. Feb. 16 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 17.
Audience members will have a chance to meet the actors after the 7 p.m. performance Feb. 10.
COST: $30 to $51 for adults; $30 to $32 for those 40 and under and $18 for those age 18 and under. Tickets can be purchased online at www.syracusestage.org or by calling Syracuse Stage at 443-9844.
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