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Taking a 'Lesson' from history
Gary Swindell Jr. and Charlene Williams star in the City of Savannah production of "The Piano Lesson."

Winner of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, August Wilson's The Piano Lesson opens Friday, May 14 and runs through the 23rd at S.P.A.C.E., home to the City of Savannah's Cultural Arts Theatre.

Set in Pittsburgh, The Piano Lesson is a story about family ties, painful memories and the tenuous promise of a brighter future. Boy Willie has brought up a truckload of watermelons from Mississippi. He and his sister Berniece are trying to decide the fate of the family's heirloom piano - she wants to keep it (the instrument features the carved likenesses of their great-grandfather's wife and son) and he insists it must be sold, so that he can purchase the farm their ancestors worked on as slaves.

Berniece sees the piano as a treasure, a priceless tie to those who have gone before; for Willie Boy, it's the key to his own freedom from economic enslavement, and his right as the descendant of those who suffered.

Certain facts about the keyboard's history are too bitter for either sibling.

"When I read The Piano Lesson," said actor Charles S. Dutton, who played Willie Boy in the original production, "I realized it encompassed the entire African-American experience. August Wilson's legacy is as important as Martin Luther King's legacy, as important as Malcom X's legacy, and as important as Nat Turner."

Vicki Blackshear directs this Savannah production, with Gary Swindell Jr. as Boy Willie and Charlene Williams as Berniece.

At 8 p.m. May 14 and 15, 21 and 22; at 3 p.m. May 16 and 23 at 9 W. Henry St. Tickets are $10 general admission, $7 for seniors and students with ID. For information, call (912) 651-6783.