The journey to redemption is a lengthy one in August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean, the first of his 10-play “Pittsburgh Cycle.” Cygnet Theatre’s staging of Gem, directed by Victor Mack, is achingly, deliberately paced to boot. To revel in Wilson’s eloquent language and insight into the African-American experience requires three hours of rapt attention, and this production does lag. By the time young Citizen Barlow (Laurence Brown) embarks upon his magical sojourn to the City of Bones (the high point of the play, and of this staging, by far), we are poised to share his catharsis, but there is still so much more to unravel.
Antonio “TJ” Johnson makes a powerful stand as the dauntless former slave Solly Two Kings. His absences from the drama are sorely felt.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.