South Coast Repertory, having produced two plays in August Wilson's Century Cycle ("The Piano Lesson" and "Fences"), now is offering the one which began it all, long before the idea of a 10-play, 10-decade chronology was born.
That would be "Jitney," set in 1977 in, as all of them are, Pittsburgh's predominantly-black Hill District, specifically in the office of a makeshift taxi service facing the wrecking ball of urban renewal.
Wilson's "Jitney" resembles another play from that era by another Wilson — Lanford. His "The Hot L Baltimore" also is set in a facility marked for destruction and both plays are rich in atmospheric content — characters moving in and out of the action before any true plot develops. There's even a loudly contested checkers match in both plays.
In "Jitney," directed at SCR by Ron O.J. Parson, the cabbies eke out a meager living as they grouse and grumble about life's incongruities. It's at least a half hour into the show before any real characterization begins to form, and then Wilson lays the hammer down with a vengeance.