Read Joe Turner's Come and Gone by August Wilson Online


When Herald Loomis arrives at a black Pittsburgh boardinghouse after seven years' impressed labor on Joe Turner's chain gang, he is a free man-in body. But the scars of his enslavement and a sense of inescapable alienation oppress his spirit still, and the seemingly hospitable rooming house seethes with tension and distrust in the presence of this tormented stranger. LoomiWhen Herald Loomis arrives at a black Pittsburgh boardinghouse after seven years' impressed labor on Joe Turner's chain gang, he is a free man-in body. But the scars of his enslavement and a sense of inescapable alienation oppress his spirit still, and the seemingly hospitable rooming house seethes with tension and distrust in the presence of this tormented stranger. Loomis is looking for the wife he left behind, believing that she can help him reclaim his old identity. But through his encounters with the other residents he begins to realize that what he really seeks is his rightful place in a new world - and it will take more then the skills of the local "People Finder" to discover it......

Title : Joe Turner's Come and Gone
Author :
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ISBN : 9780452260092
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 94 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Joe Turner's Come and Gone Reviews

  • Raymond
    2019-04-19 07:45

    "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" is play number 2 in the August Wilson Century Cycle. To me this play was fine but like "Gem of the Ocean" (Wilson's first play in the cycle) I feel like it could have been better. Two down, eight more to go.

  • BillKerwin
    2019-03-27 00:21

    Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, the second in August Wilson’s “Century Cycle, is an effective and moving play. On the surface, it gives us a realistic and affectionate depiction of an early 20th century Pittsburgh boardinghouse, and of the aspirations and sorrows of the African-Americans who live in visit there, striving to make a living in the prosperous but often difficult north. On a deeper level, however, it is the story of the spiritual and political awakening of a people toward a greater understanding of the word “freedom.”The poetic realism of August Wilson’s style makes use of expressionist techniques: archetypal characters, rhetorical declamation, and mythic and magical imagery, to name a few. As is often true of expressionist drama—witness the early O’Neill and the later O’Casey—although the individual effects may be powerful, the construction of the plays itself is sometimes defective. When Wilson creates a few forceful personalities—as he does in Fences, for example—such defects are not obvious. Unfortunately, as in Joe Turner—when Wilson task is to manipulate a large number of interesting but not compelling characters—the structural defects begin to show.The most entertaining characters in Joe Turner are the owners of the boardinghouse, Seth and Bertha Holly, whose affectionate bickering provide much of the humor of the play (and much of the essential exposition too). From a thematic point of view, however, the two most important characters are Harold Loomis and Martha Pentecost. The wandering deacon Harold Loomis, confined to Joe Turner’s work farm for seven years, has now come north with his daughter to search of his wife, but what he needs most of all—as the old conjure man Bynum Walker knows—is a new “song,” a new spiritual anthem. Martha Pentecost, his born-again wife, needs to be united with her daughter and to come to terms with Loomis and her past. The problem is that Loomis’ only tells his story in the second scene of the last act, and Martha first appears in the final scene of the play. The result is that the major themes of the play—finding a song, coming to terms with the past—appear almost like an afterthought.Still, Harold’s and Martha’sLoomis’ narratives are compelling when they come, and the many interesting characters of the boardinghouse present the audience with a vivid portrait of black America in the second decade of the 20th century.I’ll conclude with what the old conjure man Bynum has to say about the importance of a song:I didn’t know what I was searching for. The only thing I knew was something was keeping me dissatisfied. Something wasn’t making my heart smooth and easy. Then one day my daddy give me a song. That song had a weight to it that was hard to handle. That song was hard to carry. I fought against it. Didn’t want to accept that song. I tried to find my daddy to give him back the song. But I found out it wasn’t his song. It was my song...It got so I used all of myself up in the making of that song. Then I was the song in search of itself. That song rattling in my throat and I’m looking for it. See, Mr. Loomis, when a man forgets his song he goes off in search of it...till he find out he’s out it with him all the time.

  • Rick
    2019-04-15 04:47

    Set in 1911, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone takes place in a Pittsburgh boarding house run by Seth and Bertha Holly, an island of stability in a house-full of restless transients. Seth is gruff and no-nonsense, laying down laws of respectability. Bertha is warm and embracing, both a mitigator and an antidote to her husband. Bynum Walker is a conjure man, he helps folks find the song that binds them to another. Herald and Sonia Loomis are a father and daughter come to look for wife and mother, having been separated when Herald was taken off by Joe Turner’s chain gang years before. After his release, he found his daughter but not his wife. There is also a young woman, Mattie Campbell, whose man has gone off and a young man, Jeremy Furlow, who works on a road building crew and plays guitar at back road gambling places. Additional characters add complexity and flavor to this drama of displacement and the search for one’s place in a world roiled by the presence of history unresolved wounds. Just as slavery sold human souls regardless of family; Joe Turner’s labor gangs were comprised of boys and men who were snatched without crime, trial or sentence, with their families with no word or sense of when and if they would ever return. In one vile form or another Jim Crow sent many African Americans north to escape slavery’s bloody repressive second act, a diaspora of fractured families from the country to the city, from the fields to the factories, from segregation to ghetto. It is a courageous exodus because the odds of success are long and distant in time. Victories will be mostly incremental, measured in generations, hence, I think, the span of August Wilson’s cycle: a century. The transients in the Holly boarding house are at a way station on the post-bellum underground railroad hoping to find themselves. “You got to be something,” Herald is told, “You just can’t be alive. Life don’t mean nothing unless it got a meaning.” Some seek meaning in love, some in religion, some in respectability, some in luck’s false promise of prosperity, some don’t find it at all or find it in a self-destructive rebellion. In Joe Turner’s Come and Gone the displaced play out their search in prose that is near to poetry. I am three plays in to the ten play cycle and some of the most highly regarded are still to come. The plays to date have all stood, like Herald Loomis here, on their own, but they are also beginning to aggregate into a linked American masterpiece. Eugene O’Neill imagined such an epic cycle of plays but his creative life did not last long enough to execute it. August Wilson’s may just have.

  • Blue
    2019-04-19 04:38

    I enjoyed reading this play so much. So far it's my favorite play by August Wilson. JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONE happens in Pittsburgh during 1911 in a boarding house owned by Seth and Bertha. Seth and Bertha are very strong, good people. Seth is always worried about the respectability of his boardinghouse. Bertha is more worried about the comfort of the boarders and whether her biscuits will shape up to make a good breakfast.There are so many lines in this play where you want to just stop and ponder the words. August Wilson knows the beauty of words and how they line up to make a sentence and paragraph. For example, there is Loomis. Loomis is a roomer. With Loomis is hsi daughter, Zonia. Loomis is searching for his wife and the mother to his little girl. It seems everyone is in search of someone. The people pouring out from slavery to freedom have not completely settled yet. As a matter of fact, Selig is a people finder. "Rutherford Selig. He go around selling pots and pans and every house he come to he write down the name and address of whoever livers there. So if you looking for somebody, quite naturally you go and see him...'cause he's the only one who know where everybody live at."I was very surprised to learn about Joe Turner. After learning his mission in life, I will never forget him. Might know him if I meet him in my modern day world with a different agenda. Bynum who deals in some type of sorcery thinks you're safe from the Joe Turners in the world if you have a song in your heart. Your song is the ability to know your true identity. Really, the whole play is bound up in the thread of Martha's words. "You got to be something, Herald. You just can't be alive . Life don't mean nothing unless it got a meaning."

  • Debbie
    2019-04-09 00:35

    Wow! That was deep!I do enjoy all of the brilliant August Wilson's plays. They all are true to form stories of the African American community through the times. They all invoke an element of religion and spirituality. This one...I feel like August was a little more symbolic than maybe I can grasp on one read through. Not to say that this is not a good play/book. So far, I believe that anything thatAugust Wilson put his pen to was a skilled account of some story viewed through the window of real people's lives. Or maybe I'm just partial because he was one of my city's native sons. I enjoyed the banter of the characters as I always do. I think I get some of the many points but I honestly believe that if this play was a little bit longer..maybe the characters would have developed just a tad more. I will say this wouldn't be my favorite play but still good. I give it a 3 1/2 out of 5. If this is performed as a stage play that I can go see, I'd love to see this. Sometimes it helps to have a visual. Also, since it is said that actor/producer Denzel Washington will be making movie productions of all of the Century Cycle plays I'm looking forward to seeing this brought to life on that platform as well. I do recommend it. I will be continuing to read all of the plays.

  • Kathryn Bashaar
    2019-04-10 00:18

    My bucket list item of seeing all of August Wilson's plays is nearly complete. Joe Turner and Ma Rainey are the only two I haven't seen yet, so I thought to at least read Joe Turner when I came across it at the library (but reading it doesn't count for the bucket list; all of these plays are so much better seen performed).I love Wilson's work, and I loved this play. Wilson's Pittsburgh cycle of plays each takes place in Pittsburgh in a different decade of the 20th century. This one takes place in 1911. Seth and Bertha Holley own a boarding house in Pittsburgh's Hill District. Bynum Walker is a "conjure man" and a long-term tenant. Other, shorter-term tenants drift in and out, including an ex-con, with his daughter in tow, who is looking for the wife who abandoned them, and various young people looking for love. This play is most similar to Gem of the Ocean, the Pittsburgh cycle play which takes place right after the turn of the century, in that it portrays the deep cultural memory of slavery, family separation and the further separations in the wake of the Great Migration north. The theme of the play is a desperate need for connection in an environment of separation and change. White people never come off well in Wilson's plays. Just when you think maybe Selig, the white peddler, is maybe pretty decent, you find that he's not blameless. This is true of all of Wilson's white characters. White people don't often appear on stage. Instead, like Joe Turner, they are a lurking, oppressive offstage presence. When whites do appear, they are generally less deliberately evil, than just casually, cluelessly evil; they disregard blacks, treat them with casual cruelty because deep down they can't quite credit them as being as human as we are.Like Victor Hugo with the 19th-century French proletariat, Wilson has great compassion for the lower and working class blacks of 20th-century Pittsburgh, and that compassion illuminates and dignifies all of his work. His characters are often feckless and foolish, but they are allowed their dignity by this amazing playwright who died way too soon. Like my reviews? Check out my blog at

  • Neil
    2019-03-31 02:43

    This is the play set in the teens in Wilson's long decade by decade Pittsburgh cycle. Here, the owners and residents of a rooming house are stirred up by the arrival of Loomis, a mysterious man who we come to find is trying to find his wife after years on a chain gang. The play is about the aftermath of slavery and in some ways, each character represents a response to that horrible legacy. Seth, the boarding house owner, is trying unsuccessfully to get a business started and is all about work, order, and numbers. His wife Bertha is ever-accommodating of everything she encounters. Bynum is a conjure man who has turned to spiritualism and magic in his attempt to "bind" people back to each other and their nature as humans. Jeremy is a musician who just can't stay put, in a job, in a place, or with a woman. Mattie is hoping to reconcile with the husband who deserted her after she lost two babies, but she may be willing to settle for Jeremy. Molly may be a prostitute. They're all getting by when Loomis appears with his daughter. He's looking for his wife, but it's unclear whether he wants to reconnect with her or harm her. Everything in this play is haunted by the past. The only white character, Selig, is hired to help find Martha, Loomis's wife, but his skills as a finder take on a horrific cast when we find that they were passed down from his father who used to hunt runaway slaves. I'm not sure that I'm sure about what Wilson is getting at with the very last moments of the play, but otherwise, I was completely captivated by it. There's a lot of suspense and tension built, even though the plot of the play is rather oblique, and if you're like me, your mind will be spinning with the possibilities as you read or watch the play. Think I'll have a go at Fences next.

  • Colleen
    2019-04-09 08:24

    Joe Turner's Come and Gone is the second play in August Wilson's Century (or Pittsburgh) Cycle. As with the first play, Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner's Come and Gone is full of memorable characters living out their slice of African American life in 1911 Pittsburgh. The setting is a black boardinghouse run by Seth Holly and his wife, Bertha. The two compliment each other well. Seth is a stern, no- nonsense man who is not going to put up with crap from anybody, least of all his boarders. Bertha is the mother hen, prone to giving them the benefit of the doubt. Many of these boarders have endured heart-breaking circumstances. They are sad, bewildered, and angry at their lot in life, but they survive. Despite what people have thrown at these former slaves or descendants of slaves, they soldier on, making the best of what they have. The most difficult to comprehend is the life of Herald Loomis, who, seven years ago, for no reason whatsoever, was randomly plucked off the street he was walking down and consigned to a chain gang. Why would white Joe Turner do this? Because he could. The blacks he "hand-selected" for his chain gang had no legal protection, no rights, no dignity. Herald simply vanished off the face of the earth, leaving his wife and daughter behind, wondering what could possibly have happened to him. How did Herald get off the chain gang? Joe Turner released them as a birthday present to himself and they were expected to be grateful for this. Those seven years have broken Herald and it's both grievous and infuriating. Anyone who says African Americans should "get over it," should be forced to read this so they understand why it's so difficult to do that.

  • Ian
    2019-03-26 00:43

    As I read Wilson's work it is becoming clear that the supernatural moments in some of the plays act as the peak of the plot. When it works really well, it will haunt a reader or a play goer for days on end. Such is the case with this play. He is known for his plays FENCES, which has no supernatural incident, and for THE PIANO LESSON, which did not really work for me in it's climax. JOE TURNER on the other hand left me anxious to see it performed live. It is the second play in the Ten play cycle and comes after GEM OF THE OCEAN. Even though these plays were written years apart, the similar tone and experience that permeates each play is extremely noticeable. I think I will always hold GEM as my favorite, but this acts as a sort of natural sequel to it.

  • Karen
    2019-03-21 08:21

    Excellent 2nd play in the Century cycle.

  • Robert Jersak
    2019-03-29 03:42

    It's my winter of Wilson. Trying for one play a week. This week, it was Joe Turner's Come and Gone. It's not as tight a script as Fences, and the tension isn't as immediately clear as it is in The Piano Lesson, but it's another brilliant play in the Pittsburgh series and it cuts deep. The intense post-traumatic stress of slavery has been addressed in other great works, but it's impact on relationships - intimate relationships, familial relationships, relationships to faith - is front-and-center here. The Bertha boarding house is a pool table of sorts, in which characters, broken by the violent thrust of injustice, continue to roll, bump up against each other and try to find a safe pocket that feels like home. The characters pop in and out, each with clear nobility and faults, needs and wants. The lost soul of the play, Herald Loomis, is desperate to wash himself clean of the crimes committed against him. Whether by play's end he can or he can't is something for you all to decide, but one thing is clear - those who've served as real-life models for Joe Turner - those who actually stole human lives for abuse and servitude - will never be acquitted so long as historians and playwrights are heard.A Favorite PassageSETH: He just want you to do his work for him. That's all.LOOMIS: I can look at him and see where he big and strong enough to do his own work. So it can't be that. He must want something he ain't got.BYNUM: That ain't hard to figure out. What he wanted was your song. He wanted to have that song to be his. He thought by catching you he could learn that song. Every nigger he catch he's looking for the one he can learn that song from. Now he's got you bound up to where you can't sing your own song. Couldn't sing it them seven years 'cause you was afraid he would snatch it from you under you. But you still got it. You just forgot how to sing it.

  • Ash
    2019-04-21 00:24

    "Sometimes you can get all mixed up in life and come to the wrong place."- Bynum, Joe Turner's Come and GoneMy quest continues to get through August Wilson's Century Cycle. This time, it's Joe Turner's Come and Gone. It's 1911, the Era of the newly freed slaves making their way. Seth and Bertha Holly own a boardinghouse in Philadelphia.Among the tenants are Jeremy, a young guitar player and Bynum Walker, a rootworker aka a conjure man. Seth runs a tight ship but the residents live in a tough but fair harmonious environment. That is until Harold Loomis and his young daughter Zonia show up. Loomis is looking for his wife, who abandoned him and Zonia, during his seven year servitude to Joe Turner.Joe Turner's Come and Gone has a lot of spirituality and mysticism to it. This is probably because of the negro spirituals still ran deep within because it was so early in the century. It was before acclimatization and assimilation to their environment.I sort of liked Joe Turner's Come and Gone. It just was very different from the other plays I have read in the Cycle. However, I respect and applaud that very fact because it shows just how effective a writer August Wilson really was.I will give Wilson another credit: he sure knew how to write third acts. That's where all the drama is and it sure is a doozy. And a little crazy. Just a tad.Literally, it's a different time and it's palpable. It's olden days. It's the long awaited taste of freedom. It's adherence to old legends. It's the encompassing belief in God.

  • Devyn Duffy
    2019-04-18 02:30

    First, disclosure: as a resident of Pittsburgh, I've seen two of Wilson's plays at the Downtown center named for him, one in its original setting at Wilson's former home, and Fences at the movie theater. When I visited the library and saw copies of the remaining plays on the shelf, I had to start borrowing them.If you've read and/or seen other plays in Wilson's Century Cycle, this one is similar. It's a story of African Americans in 1911 facing limited opportunities due to poverty and racism. Today, a century after the play was set, it still feels sadly relevant. In Joe Turner's Come and Gone, a married couple owns a boarding house in the Hill District. Boarders come including a strange man with his daughter and looking for his wife. Each character is looking for something and has a different way of searching. Like in some other plays in the cycle, there is a strong supernatural element in this play, but somehow it doesn't detract from the play's realism. As usual, I enjoyed the references to local streets and towns. I also learned some awful history: the name "Joe Turner" is derived from a man who was the brother of a Tennessee governor and made money from "convict leases" in which black prisoners were put to work for private individuals and companies.From reading this play, it's clear that it would be powerful when performed in the theater. The next time it is performed here in Pittsburgh--which won't be long, as there seems to be at least one play in the cycle performed here every year--I'll be sure to see it.

  • Eric
    2019-04-15 01:23

    The second in Wilson's Century Cycle, Joe Turner concerns the lives of African Americans living in a boardinghouse. Themes of identity and migration strongly at play here, much like with the previous Gem of the Ocean, with religious spectacle making for the more powerful scenes.

  • Adira
    2019-03-30 05:44

    I absolutely LOVED this play.Full review to come.

  • Vernon Jr.
    2019-04-08 00:45

    I've always enjoyed August Wilson's plays interpreted on stage and sitting down to read the play through brought home his use of language and storytelling of the Black experience.

  • Elisa
    2019-04-13 00:40

    In August Wilson’s play, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, there is little argument that one of the largest themes that runs throughout the script is that of finding one’s own path in life and choosing how to follow it. Seth Holly and Jeremy Furlow emerge as two examples. Seth stands throughout the story as a rock; a solid, powerful, testament to what hard work, and lots of it, can achieve. His tenant Jeremy, however, still dares to believe that dreams have a role to play in deciding what determines a person’s happiness. Jeremy has been beaten down plenty of times, but his spirit acts as the beacon of light on top of Seth’s rock. Together, both of their visions serve to foreshadow what the new century has in store for African-American society. Seth is the owner of a boarding house in Pittsburgh. He is a free man and has never known the tragedy of enslavement as have some of his tenants. He is also ignorant of many of the feelings of cultural unity that were borne out of southern blacks’ mutual suffering. For Seth, the key to a successful life means assimilating oneself quickly and easily to a new environment, something he himself has been successful at accomplishing and therefore has trouble understanding why others have not been able to do so just as easily.Seth seems to resent his racial counterparts for two reasons. The first is completely self-serving, but understandable. Seth has worked hard all of his life for his earnings and knows what the feeling of rejection is like and also what it takes to get ahead. Seth is more willing than many of his neighbors to lay low and even to bow and scrape a little if need be to succeed. His knowledge and experience in this regard puts Seth on the defensive much of the time, perhaps even making him slightly paranoid. It is also possible that Seth’s resentment stems from some type of “mothering” instinct toward his fellow African Americans. Seth genuinely cares about the fates of the more innocent and possibly, more gullible, African-Americans that migrate from the south, but he is afraid to admit this fact. Instead, Seth uses the same tactic mothers do with their children; constantly scolding to conceal the hidden worry lying just underneath the surface. For example, as much as Seth may pretend not to care about the character of Jeremy Furlow, it is hard to deny his affection for the boy. For all his bravado, Seth is intrigued by the rash new ideas of a fresh millennium that Jeremy seems to embrace. Indeed, Jeremy’s guitar represents everything that Seth could never have aspired for himself: freedom, independence, and hope. For Jeremy, his instrument provides him with both a reason and a purpose to keep traveling. Jeremy’s dream is important in that it represents a new way of thinking that a man in Seth’s generation would never have dared to pursue, which could explain Seth’s initial scornful and disbelieving response. Seth feels it is more practical for a man to be content to earn money any way he can and not complain about what he wants or does not have; this ends up being the profound difference between him and Jeremy. Seth sees the importance of keeping a logical point of view; he refuses to be cheated and is not one to take chances if there is not a guaranteed payout for him in the end. Jeremy, on the other hand, realizes that he cannot afford NOT to take chances. Together, it is both Seth and Jeremy’s thinking that signify the mindset that all twentieth century African-Americans must work to adopt if they wish to be successful in a post-civil war era.

  • Jessica Barkl
    2019-04-21 06:32

    My schedule has not permitted my reading schedule to move forward, so, somehow I need to read the rest of the 10 plays this weekend...we'll see if I succeed. I re-read JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONE this morning and it was better than I remember it. From Ben Brantley's 2009 New York Times Review:"Set in 1911 and the second chapter (chronologically) in Mr. Wilson’s 10-play cycle of the African-American journey through the 20th century, “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” is about nothing less than the migration and dispersal of a race and culture, searching for an identity and home. At the same time this play, which takes place in a boardinghouse in the Pittsburgh neighborhood called the Hill, feels cozy, gossipy and domestic.Its characters, embodied by one of the strongest ensembles in town, seem reassuringly knowable instead of fancy figures in an allegory. This is true even when they’re describing mystical visions involving bones walking out of the ocean.An old man named Bynum Walker (Roger Robinson, in a marvelously centered performance) speaks of finding himself in a dreamland where the everyday is so magnified that sparrows are as big as eagles and then seeing, but with new eyes, the world restored to its normal proportions. That’s the scale of “Joe Turner” too. It is magically larger than life and exactly, precisely life size. So is Mr. Sher’s interpretation, which seems to take place in both a well-scrubbed, modest sitting room and a fairy-tale forest.Though it was Mr. Wilson’s favorite among his plays — and that of many critics (including me) — “Joe Turner” was not a raging popular success in its first New York incarnation. Lacking the more obvious melodrama and sentimentality of his two Pulitzer Prize winners, “Fences” (1987) and “The Piano Lesson” (1990), it opened on Broadway in 1988, squarely between those two longer-running works, and lasted for 105 performances."And, as always, my favorite quote of the play:BYNUM: (Laughs.) Alright. Let's try it this way. Now you take a ship. Be out there on the water traveling about. You out there on the ship sailing to and from. And then you see some land. Just like you see a woman walking down the street. You see that land and it don't look like nothing but a line out there on the horizon. That's all it is when you first see it. A line that cross your path out there on the horizon. Now, a smart man know when he see that land, it ain't just a line setting out there. He know that if you get of the water to go take a good look ... why there's a whole world right there. A whole world with everything imaginable under the sun. Anything you can think of you can find on that land. Same with a woman. A woman is everything a man need. That's all he need to live on. You give me some water and berries and if there ain't nothing else I can live a hundred years. See, you just like a man looking at the horizon from a ship. You just seeing a part of it. But it's a blessing when you learn to look at a woman and see in maybe just a few strands of her hair, the way her cheek curves ... to see in that everything there is out of life to be gotten. It's a blessing to see that. You know you done right and proud by your mother to see that. But you got to learn it. My telling you ain't gonna mean nothing. You got to learn how to come to your own time and place with a woman."

  • Courtney H.
    2019-03-29 02:40

    Even with his economical approach, there's a wonderful cadence to Joe Turner. It helps that he makes excellent, if brief, use of his stage directions to direct his characters' motivations; it gives the dialogue a bit less heavy lifting (though it still does an enormous amount) and lets it be lyrical. At times it is more poem than play (The Piano Lesson, his next play, goes even further in this). This also is the first of the cycle in which Wilson injects the inexplicable (magical, mythical) into his every day. The play is set in a boarding house (owned by Seth Holly and his wife), which anchors those who flow in and out. The focus is on Loomis, who arrives at Seth's boarding house with his daughter (who got a bit of a raw deal in being sacrificed for Loomis' ultimate accomplishment), looking for the wife (same) who left their home while he was forced on a chain gang by Joe Turner, who looms throughout, though we never meet him. Turner was the governor's brother who kidnapped poor black men to work on chain gangs for years at a time. But in the play's mythos, he was worse even than that: he kidnapped them from their own lifeline. Loomis was looking for his way back. Loomis was not the only one looking. Everyone was. Characters are always moving, looking, planning, or yearning. They are looking for something or someone, fleeing oppression, seeking a place to belong. It is a play about movement and migration. And it is about individualism, and the need for a person to find one's own way. But still the play drives home the way in which his characters were unavoidably interconnected. Walker and Selig: Selig the people-finder; and Bynum Walker, who is focused on the lost song, a person's inner self. The play accomplishes an enormous amount. As always, the subject matter is big and intimate. Wilson has to balance deeply personalized characters and relationships while grappling with broad issues of racism, philosophy, and politics; all while utilizing his play to tell the story of his characters, his city, the era. In his hands, the biggest of ideas become concrete: oppression, racism, loss, love, the redemption of oneself. Everything has a distinct, imperfect, and raw human face. And then somehow Wilson leaves his characters exactly where he should. Though a book about roads and migration will have to end with a journey, Joe Turner is still complete--in exactly two acts.Of course. Wilson does not need anything else. While the characters and plots of Wilson's plays are messy, Wilson's structure is simple. Each word is controlled and precise. He sets his scene in a paragraph, again with great precision. Nothing is wasted or unnecessary. It hides nothing, because Wilson leaves himself no room to hide. This was a reread. I loved it when I first read it, and no less now. It may end up ranking as one of (if not the) my favorites.

  • Brian McCann
    2019-04-07 05:21

    Lyrical...perhaps a little too lyrical. There are so many metaphors at work that the narrative gets a little lost. Perhaps there is additional clarity in viewing this piece.

  • Vel Veeter
    2019-04-05 05:25

    I finally got the weird middle aged man at the library to talk with me. He’s mostly kind of chilly, but when I came up with an armload of August Wilson plays, it worked for him. He told me all about how people have been checking out his plays recently, how he read about Denzel Washington’s directorial choices for the new movie, all kinds of stuff.I really like reading the cast lists for these plays from the 1980s. In this one, we had Charles S Dutton of “Roc” and Alien 3 fame. And then in a different version, we had Delroy Lindo of well…I like Delroy Lindo. Also, this play originally starred Angela Bassett in a small role.August Wilson is just a really good writer. Point blank. No argument.His plays are not plot heavy in general and they avoid some of the things I really dislike about plays. Weird soliloquies that are waxing annoying about whatever.In this play we have a small boarding house in 1911 Pittsburgh that is acting as a kind of waystation between the North and the South and between the real world and the spiritual world. This is a play about commitment and redemption and how these ideas interplay. Seth and Bertha run the house and there’s some craggy regulars like Bynum and Jeremy and Selig. Then one day, Herald Loomis and his daughter Zonia come along and pay their week’s rent. Turns out Herald has a past and Seth no longer wants to board him. But he’s paid his way and he gets his week. In the week that comes, Herald is looking for his wife after years of being on the chain gang and uses the services of Selig, a conjure man, to help find her. There’s a lot of talk about the past, about migration and transmigration, and the different things that come along with it.Again, August Wilson is good. This is a perfectly reading experience. It would be really enjoyable to see performed.

  • Steven
    2019-04-16 03:34

    I read this play for an Introduction to Theatre course. The storyline is very captivating.

  • Izetta Autumn
    2019-04-01 01:43

    I saw Joe Turner's Come and Gone in March at the Kennedy Center with Russell Hornsby as the lead. Aside from Hornsby being an absolutely phenomenal actor (catch him in Lincoln Heights this fall), Wilson's script is powerful.For those unfamiliar with Wilson's ten-play cycle, here's some background: Wilson, an extremely prolific playwright, made a commitment to write ten plays over a decade, each play corresponding to a decade in the lives and history of Black America - from Reconstruction to the early 2000s (Wilson passed away in 2005). For more info, check out: Turner picks up with a boarding house right at what is historically referred to as the "nadir," in Black American history. That is the period after emanacipation and reconstruction, where the North, in order to secure the union and politically unite with white southeners, removed their support of reconstruction efforts, allowing for Jim Crow to flourish throughout the south. As a result, Black Americans faced some of the most horrific treatment and torture since slavery - experiencing pograms, lynchings, and forced labor. In Joe Turner, Wilson explains the impact of such violence and dislocation on Black Americans, by centering what happens to one family torn apart, when a husband is captured and forced to work for seven long years, without his family knowing what happened to him.The heart-wrenching loss, the way that Black Americans were forced to make new connections, the rolling definition of the idea of family, and the presence of spirituality and completion make this a powerful play.

  • Lauren
    2019-03-27 02:38

    Set in 1911 and the second entry in the Pittsburgh Cycle, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is stronger than its predecessor but still left me wanting more. I’m torn about the ending, which was odd (albeit understandable) and anticlimactic. And it didn’t make sense to me. The statement the ending makes about black men and fatherhood confuses me and whether that was the intent or simply happenstance.But the rest of the play has interesting characters (although, come to think of it, a lot of the male characters are jerks) and moves along at a nice clip. That Mr. Wilson doesn’t spend time overexplaining to his audience – particularly who Joe Turner is – bothered me at first but after finishing, I agreed with his decision. Recommended.

  • Ian Connel
    2019-04-16 04:29

    A wretched defense of irresponsibility.I read this for a college course and was horrified. The protagonist's goal is to find his daughter's mother so he discard his daughter and pursue his own interests. Somehow this is glorious because he is rejecting social mores imposed by whites. The evil of racism is undeniable, but children need their parents - both of them, no matter what color they are. Love is more important than racial identity.Further, the protagonist fails to make any social impact by abandoning his daughter. When he does this, the prophet character cries, "You shining, Herald Loomis!" He neither freed himself from oppression nor poverty. He becomes a shining example of a cultural blight, and to misled bleeding hearts on campuses everywhere, pretty prose justifies pointless cruelty. Culture is a people worshiping themselves, and this is a prime example of that happening without question.If you have a child, you provide for them and stick around for them. Exceptions are not made for selfish pursuits. Before any argument is made to counter this, ask yourself if you would want your father dumping you off like a sack of potatoes and forgetting you. Didn't think so.

  • Theresa
    2019-04-17 04:48

    The play was well written and filled with imagery and allusions to religion, politics, slavery, and cultural identity. I feel that reading and analyzing it enabled me to get some insight into the African-American Man. But that was about it. As a woman (of Caucasian origin at that)I did find it difficult to relate to any of the characters. The women were merely there as objects, lacking any sort of depth or contribution to the story itself.I suppose that in itself, that isn't so bad as the author was very clearly targeting the African-American male, but would it have been too much to ask that the women be more than walking vaginas? In an attempt to overthrow the stereotypes of the African-American man being somehow ignorant or incapable of depth and range of emotion, August Wilson managed to degrade the African-American woman down to the crudest of stereotypes: Disapproving Wife, Pretty Gold-Digger, Naive Romantic.I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy this particular piece of literature. I did. However it was the overall righteousness that this play was written about superseding one's predestined existence that was flawed; as it only seemed to apply to a very narrow demographic.

  • Stephanie Folarin
    2019-03-24 00:43

    Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is a play by August Wilson that examines the comings and goings of lodgers in Seth Holly's boardinghouse over the course of approximately 2 weeks in Pittsburgh in 1911. The play has two Acts—Act 1 introduces themes of spirituality, identity, and migration. In Act 2, the characters in this play experience loneliness, enslavement, and rampant discrimination and racism in the south and north. My favorite character in this play is Bynum Walker. Walker is a voodoo man who believes everyone has a song and once that person learns their song he or she finds their identity. He is a scary yet sympathetic character and I was regularly impressed by his demonstration of unwavering strength and resolve even as other characters emotionally assault him.This play is a microcosm of the complex and ever-changing 20th century world the characters live in. Similar to The Piano Lesson, Wilson is able to include an immense amount of history into this play without changing settings and with a limited number of characters. I enjoyed reading this play and I now have a burning desire to see it on stage!

  • Jason
    2019-04-04 03:39

    I'm working my way through August Wilson's "Pittsburgh Cycle" - trying to read them in order, but the first ("Gem of the Ocean") wasn't in my library and had to be ordered, so I stared w/ "Joe Turner." The only other Wilson play I've read to this point is "Fences," though I did see "The Piano Lesson" on Broadway many years ago. "Joe Turner" feels like a good play, though it doesn't read as strong as "Fences" does - there are some performative moments (particularly towards the end) that feel ambiguous to me on the page. Lots of good monologues, though most in the storytelling mode, rather than the confessional/revelatory mode. The strength of the play is balancing the metaphor and the mysticism with the reality of the characters' lives, a juxtaposition that sometimes feels uneasy. The children characters are the least effective, feeling somewhat forcedly symbolic in a way that the adults aren't. For whatever reason, I prefer the day-to-day realities a bit more than the invocation of ghosts and cultural myths, but again, that's more a reflection of the written word; I'm confident I would have a different impression seeing it in performance.

  • Rachel
    2019-04-16 03:21

    I struggled to get through this play because of the formatting. I've not read very many plays, besides Shakespeare, and the novel in me wanted more details about the characters. It is clear that the best way to experience this text is on the stage and I would love to see a play of August Wilson's on stage one day.I read Joe Turner for my Ethnicity in Literature class and it sparked great discussion about slavery, racism, and religion. It was quick 90 page play but the impact outweighed the length in my opinion.Some of the characters were intriguing while others were hard to like (Seth, Rutherford) but the play placed the reader into their daily lives in 1911. I believe the play would have been amazing as a full novel exploring all of the characters in the boarding house.The middle and the end of the play were highly metaphorical and I would suggest reading it multiple times to gain the significance of the scenes.I recommend checking this one out on the stage! :)