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CompleteMartialArts.com - The Piano Lesson (1995)

The Piano Lesson (1995)
List Price: $9.98
Our Price: $6.93
Your Save: $ 3.05 ( 31% )
Availability: N/A
Manufacturer: Hallmark
Starring: Charles S. Dutton, Alfre Woodard, Carl Gordon, Tommy Hollis, Lou Myers
Directed By: Lloyd Richards
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5

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Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Binding: VHS Tape
EAN: 9781574922813
Format: Closed-captioned
ISBN: 1574922815
Label: Hallmark
Manufacturer: Hallmark
Number Of Items: 1
Publisher: Hallmark
Release Date: 1999-01-12
Running Time: 95
Studio: Hallmark
Theatrical Release Date: 1995-02-05

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Editorial Reviews:

The only one of August Wilson's plays to be filmed (and for television, at that), this 1990 Pulitzer Prize-winner is an amazing piece of work. Adapted by Wilson and directed by Lloyd Richards, who staged it on Broadway, the play deals not just with racism and its effects but with the ongoing legacy and curse of slavery on modern blacks. Set in 1920s Pittsburgh, the story deals with the arrival of Boy Willie (Charles Dutton) from Mississippi, to claim a family heirloom from his sister Berniece (Alfre Woodard): the piano, carved by their ancestors with symbols of slavery. He wants to sell it to buy the land his grandfather worked as a slave; Berniece refuses to give it up because it represents a horrifying episode from the family's past. Add in ghosts, superb performances, and Wilson's poetically charged writing, and you have a startlingly solid piece of theater that works well as a film. --Marshall Fine


Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Learn Your Lesson
Comment: August Wilson's 'The Piano Player' with Charles Dutton and Alfre Woodard is such an engrossing play. This screen adaption brings you into there lives and makes you feel for every one in the movie. The writing 'superb'. The acting 'superb'. And the supporting cast is so top notch, you have to watch it more than once just to see all the scene stealers. This is a group that can send a complete message with just the raising of an eye, the shrugging of a shoulder, or the shaking of a head. You know what every gesture means. I now need 'Fences'.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: "As long as Sutters had that piano, they had us as slaves."
Comment: Winner of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, August Wilson's lively domestic drama focuses on a black family in the 1930s and their piano, which dominates the living room of Doaker Charles and his niece Berniece in Pittsburgh. The piano is adorned with the faces of their slave ancestors, carved by a distant relation who was owned by the Sutter family in Mississippi before Emancipation. Berniece's brother Boy Willie, recently released from a prison farm, has come to Pittsburgh from Mississippi with his friend Lymon, determined to sell this ancient piano in which he claims half-ownership.

Charles Dutton, as Boy Willie, Berniece's brother, endows his role with a humor and good-naturedness not obvious from a reading of the play, and his passion to use the money from the sale of the piano to buy a hundred acres of Sutter farmland, which his slave ancestors once worked, is palpable. Courtney B., as Boy Willie's friend Lymon, is credulous and innocent as he explores the city, responding to its differences from the life on the farm, and bringing Berniece (Alfre Woodard) out of the grief she has borne since the shooting death of her husband three years before. Woodard herself is a fierce Berniece, protective of her young daughter and determined to preserve the piano and its heritage.

Directed by Lloyd Richards for the Hallmark Hall of Fame in 1995, the screenplay was adapted by August Wilson from his own play. A bit shorter than the original, with offensive expletives omitted for television, the script remains close to the original. When Sutter's ghost makes several appearances, the superstitions and folklore which have been part of the family's culture become both real and violent, and when Willie Boy, Lymon, Wining Boy (his gambler uncle, played by Lou Meyers), and uncle Doaker (Carl Gordon) sing, on several occasions, the viewer is reminded of the role of spirituals in black culture, their unifying spirit, and the dignity they inspired.

The appearances of Sutter's ghost and Boy Willie's battle with him create a sense of melodrama in this otherwise thoughtful battle between the reverence for the past (as seen in Berniece) and the hopes for the future (as seen in Boy Willie). As a record of the era in which many blacks left the farms for the opportunities of the city, however, the play is unparalleled in its insights. Mary Whipple


Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: A battle between the historic past and dreams for the future
Comment: If you are seriously into dramatic theatre plays, you may agree that re-creations made for movies or televisions are often substandard to the book! In this case, the re-creation was geared toward television/movie quality rather than a reproduction of a stage theatre performance.

And if you are familiar with the works of August Wilson, you will recognize that to adher to the vernacular - spoken language of a region - is critical to the element of his works. In this DVD movie, the use of the N word was omitted and that omission is part of history.

African American playwright, August Wilson was born in 1945 and has received numerous, that include Pulitzer Prize honors, "Fences" in 1987; and "The Piano Lesson" in 1990. Each of his works chronicle a decade in black experience. The Piano Lesson takes place in the depression era, the 30's.

The story revolves around an old carved upright piano that is symbolic with rich family history that dates back to trading slaves. The carvings are stunning and each scene depicts a story filled with vivid description. The plot includes supernatural elements.

Actor Charles Dutton has performed as other characters in Wilson's plays and here he plays Boy Willie. With dreams of owning land like his ancestors, his plan involves selling a piano that belongs to him and his sister Berniece, played by the well-known Alfre Woodard. However, the piano, an heirloom, is a representation of the past and she refuses to sell it. The carvings were done by her grandfather, an enslaved plantation carpenter.

The movie version of the Piano Lesson was done quite well with some stunning performances by seasoned actors. Like any well-written play with all the elements required, it lays heavy on meaningful and lengthy dialogue.

The Piano Lesson opened onstage in 1984 and became Wilson's second Pulitzer Prize in 1990. Supposedly, this Hallmark version is shortened and since I have not read the book, I cannot say how true to the book it is. ....MzRizz


Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: Hallmark censorship
Comment: An already posted review claims that this TV version is true to August Wilson's play. Only partly--and the differences are almost certainly attributable to Hallmark. Wilson adapted his own original stage script, but this version is shorter than the original (which may be a good thing--Wilson does like to let his characters gab) and the language is very different. For example, the nice, politically correct folks who want to sell greeting cards at Hallmark no doubt forced Wilson to remove the numerous instances of the word "ni____" from his play. Some other "rough" language (which can now be heard on the evening news, much less TV fiction) also failed to pass Hallmark's censors.
The TV production also "opens" the play from its original setting in Doaker's living room and kitchen and adds a silent, visual accompaniment to Doaker's marvelous tale about the family piano.
Do these changes damage the play? No, but they certainly do alter its flavor.
On one hand, I'm very happy that this great Black American playwright allowed one of his scripts to have a TV production and that we now have this video record of that production. On the other hand, it seems a shame that Wilson had to compromise his artistry in order to reach a wider audience than theatre itself can supply.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: A Lesson of My Own
Comment: I teach language arts, including drama, at a rural high school. I read "The Piano Lesson" and was hoping for a film version that I could show to my students to go along with their reading. This film is true to the play and shows viewers what happens when we don't carry on family traditions and make good use of the gifts and talents we have. The cast and production crew have done a marvelous job of creating a compelling version of this Pulitzer Prize winning play. I highly recommend it for its many levels of enjoyment and learning.


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