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King Hedley II (The August Wilson Century Cycle) Hardcover – April 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

August Wilson is the most influential and successful African American playwright writing today. He is the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Fences, The Piano Lesson, King Hedley II, Ma Rainy's Black Bottom, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Seven Guitars, Two Trains Running, Jitney and Radio Golf. His plays have been produced all over the world.
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Product Details

  • Series: The August Wilson Century Cycle
  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Theatre Communications Group (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559363053
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559363051
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.5 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,774,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Aco on May 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
Wow, the god of small things must be glancing my way. The first to write about an August Wilson play! I feel honored.
King Hedley II is Wilson's 8th play in his monumental 20th Century cycle, here reflecting the 1980's. Full of the pains and pressures to maintain one's dignity and relish a life constantly off-balance, the play focuses on King, who is in his 30's and living in Pittsburgh's Hill District in 1985. His face has a long scar from a razor cut by the man he later killed, ultimately doing 7 years. With him is his best friend Mister, with whom he plans to open a video store, operates as a middle man selling refrigerators and is otherwise a business partner. King's wife Tonya met him after his prison time, and can only stand so much of his anger and is not emotionally ready to take him getting arrested again, or the suggestion that he'll be in trouble again. King's mother Ruby lives with them, an ex-lounge singer, she is a hardened woman, not the woman Tonya wants to be, having been with and through men who abandoned her, were murdered or imprisoned. Her relationship with Hedley is tenuous at best. When Elmore, a longtime flame of Ruby's returns to Pittsburgh the pressures of these people's lives are boiled toward the inevitable but horrible ending. An ending that is infused with tradition and sacrifice, as the spiritual, either crazy or touched Stool Pigeon-the play's chorus-proudly observes.
What makes Wilson such a master is his potent characters all of whom make strong proclamations of themselves with remarkable language. He is able to define another world, an American culture I can experience very clearly. The difficulties of being black in America are here as in his other plays, but in King Hedley II there is little joy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This play premiered in 1999 and is set in 1985. August Wilson wrote in his ten-play cycle of life in Pittsburgh in the 20th century (one play takes place in each decade).

I taught August Wilson's plays at Elizabeth High School -- my students adored Fences and the Piano Lesson. I wish I could have taught all of his plays. I will eventually figure out how to weave his work into the Social Work curriculum at Rutgers (or the Communications curriculum). I consider Wilson to be the equal of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams as the tri-holders of the title "America's Greatest Playwright."

This play revisits a few of the characters from "Seven Guitars" (including the son of a long dead character). An ex-con is trying to cobble enough money together to buy a video store. Wilson's plays depict the life of African-Americans in the Hill District in Pittsburgh, and while the themes of work, relationships and identity run throughout all the plays, there is a very strong undercurrent about money and opportunity and the denial of both by the status quo.

Wilson's characters are well-rounded. He does not make excuses for those that break the law or are nasty in relationships -- he does not judge. That is for us to determine.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alfred Johnson on May 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Okay, blame it on the recently departed Studs Terrell and his damn interview books. I had just been reading his "The Spectator", a compilation of some of his interviews of various authors, actors and other celebrities from his long-running Chicago radio program when I came across an interview that he had with the playwright under review here, August Wilson. Of course, that interview dealt with things near and dear to their hearts on the cultural front and mine as well. Our mutual love of the blues, our concerns about the history and fate of black people and the other oppressed of capitalist society and our need to express ourselves politically in the best way we can. For Studs it was the incessant interviews, for me it is incessant political activity and for the late August Wilson it was his incessant devotion to his century cycle of ten plays that covered a range of black experiences over the 20th century.

Strangely, although I was familiar with the name of the playwright August Wilson and was aware that he had produced a number of plays that were performed at a college-sponsored repertory theater here in Boston I had not seen or read his plays prior to reading the Terrell interview. Naturally when I read there that one of the plays being discussed was entitled "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" about the legendary female blues singer from the 1920's I ran out to get a copy of the play. That play has been reviewed elsewhere in this space but as is my habit when I read an author who "speaks" to me I grab everything I can by him or her to see where they are going with the work.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By doc peterson VINE VOICE on September 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
_King Hedley II_, August Wilson's play set in 1985, is loosely connected to Seven Guitars: King Hedley is the son of Ruby and (ostensibly) King Hedley. There are allusions to _Seven Guitars_, although only Ruby is the same character in both plays. Like _Seven Guitars_, there are strong biblical allusions throughout, although there is almost a Shakespearean tone to the play as King and his childhood friend, Mister plot and conspire to realize their dreams through nefarious means while King's mother, Ruby and his wife, Tonya, attempt to steer him to a more honorable and honest path.

It was a difficult play to read, and I would imagine, to see performed. The economic boom of the 1980s was unequal, those on the margins of society, minorities and those in lower incomes especially suffered. Seeing this on a personal level makes the play uncomfortable to experience. The frequency and length of the monologues also make for an exhausting performance - it almost seems as if Wilson is shouting from the mountain tops at the irony of the injustice and inequity these characters struggle with in the midst of what is often remembered as a "golden age" for America. Frankly I found it tiresome, which disappointed me.

I remain a devoted fan of August Wilson; however, this play came across too "preachy," rather than the kidney-punch impact that I associate with many of his other works.
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King Hedley II (The August Wilson Century Cycle)
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