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Joe Turner's Come and Gone

(The Century Cycle #2)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  2,412 ratings  ·  139 reviews
When Herald Loomis arrives at a black Pittsburgh boardinghouse after seven years' impressed labor on Joe Turner's chain gang, he is a free man-in body.
But the scars of his enslavement and a sense of inescapable alienation oppress his spirit still, and the seemingly hospitable rooming house seethes with tension and distrust in the presence of this tormented stranger. Loomi
Paperback, 94 pages
Published October 30th 1988 by Plume Books (first published 1988)
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P.J. Devlin This play includes one white male character who appears and has lines, although other white males are mentioned -- white cops who accuse black workers…moreThis play includes one white male character who appears and has lines, although other white males are mentioned -- white cops who accuse black workers of crime and take money from them; the white supervisor of a road crew who demands each black worker pay him 50 cents a week from their $8 a week salaries. There are four adult black male and one adolescent black male. There are four adult black females and one black girl child. (less)
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 ·  2,412 ratings  ·  139 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, the second in August Wilson’s “Century Cycle," is an effective and moving play. On the surface, it gives us a realistic and affectionate depiction of an early 20th century Pittsburgh boardinghouse, and of the aspirations and sorrows of the African-Americans who live or visit there, striving to make a living in the prosperous but often difficult north. On a deeper level, however, it is the story of the spiritual and political awakening of a people toward a greater und
Mar 18, 2017 rated it liked it
"Joe Turner's Come and Gone" is play number 2 in the August Wilson Century Cycle. To me this play was fine but like "Gem of the Ocean" (Wilson's first play in the cycle) I feel like it could have been better. Two down, eight more to go. ...more
Jan 25, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
That's all you need in the world is love and laughter. That's all anybody needs. To have love in one hand and laughter in the other.

I'm continuing to explore my new boxed set of August Wilson's Century/Pittsburgh Cycle, a generous Christmas gift from my sister.

Set in 1911, just a few years after the events in Gem of the Ocean , this play takes place in a Pittsburgh boarding house owned and operated by Seth Holly, a skilled craftsman and ambitious entrepreneur born to free Black p
May 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
Set in 1911, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone takes place in a Pittsburgh boarding house run by Seth and Bertha Holly, an island of stability in a house-full of restless transients. Seth is gruff and no-nonsense, laying down laws of respectability. Bertha is warm and embracing, both a mitigator and an antidote to her husband. Bynum Walker is a conjure man, he helps folks find the song that binds them to another. Herald and Sonia Loomis are a father and daughter come to look for wife and mother, having ...more
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Wow! That was deep!
I do enjoy all of the brilliant August Wilson's plays. They all are true to form stories of the African American community through the times. They all invoke an element of religion and spirituality. This one...I feel like August was a little more symbolic than maybe I can grasp on one read through. Not to say that this is not a good play/book. So far, I believe that anything that August Wilson put his pen to was a skilled account of some story viewed through the window of rea
Rose Peterson
In college, I had a professor named Dr. Swan who taught a survey of lit through early modernity course. What most would call inaccessible and boring literature, Dr. Swan brought to life through what he called "participatory imagination," encouraging us to imagine ourselves as members of the troops at Tilbury, listening to Queen Elizabeth I's speech, smelling her urine-soaked skirts.

I know I need to bring my participatory imagination to these Wilson plays I've been reading, but I feel like I need
Kathryn Bashaar
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
My bucket list item of seeing all of August Wilson's plays is nearly complete. Joe Turner and Ma Rainey are the only two I haven't seen yet, so I thought to at least read Joe Turner when I came across it at the library (but reading it doesn't count for the bucket list; all of these plays are so much better seen performed).
I love Wilson's work, and I loved this play. Wilson's Pittsburgh cycle of plays each takes place in Pittsburgh in a different decade of the 20th century. This one takes place i
Oct 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is the play set in the teens in Wilson's long decade by decade Pittsburgh cycle. Here, the owners and residents of a rooming house are stirred up by the arrival of Loomis, a mysterious man who we come to find is trying to find his wife after years on a chain gang. The play is about the aftermath of slavery and in some ways, each character represents a response to that horrible legacy. Seth, the boarding house owner, is trying unsuccessfully to get a business started and is all about work, o ...more
Nov 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
Joe Turner's Come and Gone is the second play in August Wilson's Century (or Pittsburgh) Cycle. As with the first play, Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner's Come and Gone is full of memorable characters living out their slice of African American life in 1911 Pittsburgh. The setting is a black boardinghouse run by Seth Holly and his wife, Bertha. The two compliment each other well. Seth is a stern, no- nonsense man who is not going to put up with crap from anybody, least of all his boarders. Bertha is ...more
Aug 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: drama
As I read Wilson's work it is becoming clear that the supernatural moments in some of the plays act as the peak of the plot. When it works really well, it will haunt a reader or a play goer for days on end. Such is the case with this play. He is known for his plays FENCES, which has no supernatural incident, and for THE PIANO LESSON, which did not really work for me in it's climax. JOE TURNER on the other hand left me anxious to see it performed live. It is the second play in the Ten play cycle ...more
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent 2nd play in the Century cycle.
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a great script!
Raymond  Maxwell
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: august-wilson
Each play we read in the Century Cycle seems the best. But we know that Wilson considered Joe Turner his favorite. Here are some notes from our discussion at

Week 4 – Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (notes)

1. Largest cast of any Wilson play so far. 12 counting the ever-present Joe Turner, 15 with appearance of Miss Mabel, plus the unseen Eugene, plus Jack Carper.
2. Said to be Wilson’s favorite play in the cycle. Based on Romare Bearden painting, Mill Hand’s Lunch Bucket.
3. Herald Loomis i
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Poetic, lyrical and completely aching with the need to be loved, and finding human connection. Herald Loomis, and Bynum will live on as fully fleshed out characters that are beyond great roles- but unforgettable human beings. What a lovely play. I also had the privilege of seeing this on Broadway in 2009 starring Chad L Coleman as Loomis. Wow.
Robert Jersak
It's my winter of Wilson. Trying for one play a week. This week, it was Joe Turner's Come and Gone. It's not as tight a script as Fences, and the tension isn't as immediately clear as it is in The Piano Lesson, but it's another brilliant play in the Pittsburgh series and it cuts deep. The intense post-traumatic stress of slavery has been addressed in other great works, but it's impact on relationships - intimate relationships, familial relationships, relationships to faith - is front-and-center ...more
"Sometimes you can get all mixed up in life and come to the wrong place."
- Bynum, Joe Turner's Come and Gone

My quest continues to get through August Wilson's Century Cycle. This time, it's Joe Turner's Come and Gone. It's 1911, the Era of the newly freed slaves making their way. Seth and Bertha Holly own a boardinghouse in Philadelphia.

Among the tenants are Jeremy, a young guitar player and Bynum Walker, a rootworker aka a conjure man. Seth runs a tight ship but the residents live in a tough but
Devyn Duffy
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone, especially Pittsburghers
Recommended to Devyn by: saw it at the library
First, disclosure: as a resident of Pittsburgh, I've seen two of Wilson's plays at the Downtown center named for him, one in its original setting at Wilson's former home, and Fences at the movie theater. When I visited the library and saw copies of the remaining plays on the shelf, I had to start borrowing them.

If you've read and/or seen other plays in Wilson's Century Cycle, this one is similar. It's a story of African Americans in 1911 facing limited opportunities due to poverty and racism. To
Jul 09, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
The second in Wilson's Century Cycle, Joe Turner concerns the lives of African Americans living in a boardinghouse. Themes of identity and migration strongly at play here, much like with the previous Gem of the Ocean, with religious spectacle making for the more powerful scenes. ...more
Shawn Deal
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
An incredible tale of a boarding house in 1911. August Wilson sure does bring to life the struggles of these many different people all shaped by slavery, and how they try to find each other and their own personal search to find themselves.
I absolutely LOVED this play.

Full review to come.
Vernon Jr.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've always enjoyed August Wilson's plays interpreted on stage and sitting down to read the play through brought home his use of language and storytelling of the Black experience. ...more
Brian McCann
Aug 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Lyrical...perhaps a little too lyrical. There are so many metaphors at work that the narrative gets a little lost. Perhaps there is additional clarity in viewing this piece.
Katie Boe
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I can't say anything else besides how important this play is and how absolutely brilliant August Wilson is. ...more
August Wilson is just an exceptional playwright. He is a master of the realist drama (which is my favorite kind) and all of his plays center on themes of spirituality, music, industry, migration, and transportation, both the physical and metaphysical. Joe Turner's Come and Gone contains all of these characteristics, as well as some insanely beautiful character descriptions that encourage a reading of the play as well as a viewing of it. ...more
Laura Smith
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Read for my Theatre 101 class. Definitely this is a play to pick up. As a stand alone play, it definitely brings to light parts of Reconstruction era hardships faced by black Americans that I had never learned about in school. Additionally, reading it knowing that Wilson wrote it as part of a ten play cycle chronicling the black experience throughout the 20th century is awe-inspiring, especially as someone who is interested in becoming a playwright. Loved this so much.
Luke Reynolds
The flap copy of this play was incredibly misleading, and I found that it juggled a lot of plot points while never quite landing on a central theme to unite its characters. Still, this is a good ensemble piece that may resonate more staged or adapted. I just wanted more from all the characters.
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
In August Wilson’s play, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, there is little argument that one of the largest themes that runs throughout the script is that of finding one’s own path in life and choosing how to follow it. Seth Holly and Jeremy Furlow emerge as two examples. Seth stands throughout the story as a rock; a solid, powerful, testament to what hard work, and lots of it, can achieve. His tenant Jeremy, however, still dares to believe that dreams have a role to play in deciding what determines a ...more
Jessica López-Barkl
Apr 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
My schedule has not permitted my reading schedule to move forward, so, somehow I need to read the rest of the 10 plays this weekend...we'll see if I succeed. I re-read JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONE this morning and it was better than I remember it.

From Ben Brantley's 2009 New York Times Review:

"Set in 1911 and the second chapter (chronologically) in Mr. Wilson’s 10-play cycle of the African-American journey through the 20th century, “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” is about nothing less than the migra
Courtney H.
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: century-cycle
Even with his economical approach, there's a wonderful cadence to Joe Turner. It helps that he makes excellent, if brief, use of his stage directions to direct his characters' motivations; it gives the dialogue a bit less heavy lifting (though it still does an enormous amount) and lets it be lyrical. At times it is more poem than play (The Piano Lesson, his next play, goes even further in this). This also is the first of the cycle in which Wilson injects the inexplicable (magical, mythical) into ...more
Vel Veeter
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I finally got the weird middle aged man at the library to talk with me. He’s mostly kind of chilly, but when I came up with an armload of August Wilson plays, it worked for him. He told me all about how people have been checking out his plays recently, how he read about Denzel Washington’s directorial choices for the new movie, all kinds of stuff.

I really like reading the cast lists for these plays from the 1980s. In this one, we had Charles S Dutton of “Roc” and Alien 3 fame. And then in a diff
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August Wilson was an American playwright. His literary legacy is the ten play series, The Pittsburgh Cycle, for which he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Each is set in a different decade, depicting the comic and tragic aspects of the African-American experience in the twentieth century.

Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel, Jr. in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the fourth

Other books in the series

The Century Cycle (10 books)
  • Gem of the Ocean
  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
  • The Piano Lesson
  • Seven Guitars
  • Fences (The Century Cycle #6)
  • Two Trains Running
  • Jitney
  • King Hedley II
  • Radio Golf

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