Gem of the Ocean | 1839 Wylie Ave. | Theater | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Gem of the Ocean

Aunt Ester, the mythic "cleaner of souls," looms large throughout August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle. A former slave who lived to 322 years old, Ester and her house at 1839 Wylie Ave. in the Hill District pop up directly and subtly throughout the series, but it's in Gem of the Ocean, the 1900s entry in Wilson's cycle, that we get the most insight into this enigmatic character. The play is among Wilson's more mystical, with the primary plot involving Ester taking a journey on a slave ship (from which the play gets its title) to the underwater City of Bones. The rest of play takes place, fittingly, at 1839 Wylie Ave., which is also where this production from Pittsburgh Playwrights is being staged. Pittsburgh is lucky to have Wilson's legacy and so many cultural institutions that honor and celebrate it, and witnessing one of his works in the exact location it's set is too good an opportunity to pass up.

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