Globe Reviewer Thomas Garvey is dead on about the earlier works of August Wilson in his review of Up You Mighty Race's production of Joe Turner.
My own preference is Ma Rainey's Black Bottom as the playwright's highest achievement. Ma Rainey is controlled craft bursting with the looseness of experimentation and jubilation of a playwright finding his unique voice. Joe Turner moves toward the tipping point of losing dramatic thrust and true conflict in the search for spiritual roots.
Though Ma Rainey's singing is not quite the par of the fire breathing theatrical coup of Herald Loomis's vision; Levee the trumpet player's situation and dramatic arc, which finishes in a stunning look at the truth of the situation of black americans in the 1920's, far overshadows Herald Loomis' arrival at the end of the play.
I will agree with Thomas Garvey that both represent better work than the current, but still powerful, Gem of the Ocean.
However, Mr. Garvey seems to have been watching too much Fox News and appears to want to pick political fights in the arts review section of the globe:
"Turner" feels like "community" theater in more ways than one. The audience on the night I attended was almost entirely black -- which never happens at the Huntington -- so for once it didn't feel as if I were watching Wilson under glass, with all the other nice white liberals. Instead, a direct connection between actor and audience slowly built to the play's riveting final scene. (Italics Mine)
WTF! While his observation of the ethnic makeup of the Huntington's normal audience base is on target, I think we all could have done without the white house talking points. "Nice White Liberals," are fighting words during this election period. I know that he is probably using the word in its pure definition which derives from the Latin root: liber. However, I hope that Mr. Garvey would be aware of how politically charged that word is in the current state of public discourse.
His positioning of the white audience of the Huntington being a safe distance from the black players on the stage is the classic structure for the "limousine liberal" tag we have heard played over and over through this campaign season.