The seventh play is August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle, Two Trains Running takes place in a restaurant run by a man named Memphis Lee. It is the 1960s, and the neighborhood is about to go through major economic development and gentrification. While we see a lot of the same themes as in August’s earlier works (surrounding race, oppression, identity), we see how those themes are filtered through a more modern world that is in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. Malcolm X has just been killed, and the younger characters in the play, namely Sterling and Risa, are searching for who they are and where they fit in. Memphis has given up on trying to save his business from being taken by the government, but insists on getting the money he deserves. The colorful cast of African-American characters includes an old man who has gone crazy and can only say two phrases, a man who runs numbers (i.e. the lottery) for the people of the town, a young woman who cut up her legs to make them ugly so men would leave her alone, and a young man who recently got out of the penitentiary and just wants some money and a woman. A few of the characters from Wilson’s other plays are a part of this world, and hearing their names mentioned reconnects us to the roots of what it means and has meant to be an African-American in America.
Two Trains Running guide sections