Michael A. Jones’ 2008 one-act touches on parts of Gibson’s early life, but Josh isn’t so much a bio-play as a portrait of struggle, “a dream deferred,” in Langston Hughes’ famous (and acknowledged) words. Josh is indeed dream-like, moving back and forth in time, inside Gibson but also with running commentary from his buddy and brother, Pittsburgh/baseball legend Satchel Paige.
The surreal approach is lovingly punctuated with photos of the times (projected on the wall) and classic songs, both recorded and live. The result, while pleasant, isn’t always easy to follow. I never realized that the character of the harridan Hattie, seemingly from a previous generation, wasn’t an in-law or aunt, but Gibson’s estranged second wife. Nor is it clear that Gibson’s neurological problems long predated his alcohol and alleged (never proven) drug abuse.
The small cast, directed by Charles Dumas, brings a lot of energy. In the mercurial title role, the always dependable Jonathan Berry contrasts the steadiness of Satchel Paige, played strongly by Lamar K. Cheston. Shaun McCarthy embodies the siren Grace Fournier, the femme fatale who aids Gibson’s self-destruction. Jacquea Olday ably portrays several women, including the mysterious Hattie.
Here’s one kind favor: It is indeed. Allegheny Cemetery Section 50, Lot C, Grave No. 232. Wear sturdy shoes for the uphill climb. More symbolism?