"King Hedley II" - by August Wilson - Actors' Shakespeare Project (Boston, MA.) - REVIEW

(Cover Photo: Naheem Garcia as “Elmore,” James Ricardo Milord as “King Hedley II,” Brandon G. Green as “Stool Pigeon” and Omar Robinson as “Mister” in a scene from "KING HEDLEY II" presented bActor's Shakespeare Project in Boston, MA. now playing through March 31, 2024. Photo Credit: Maggie Hall Photography)

By Kevin T. Baldwin

METRMAG Reviewer

# 774-242-6724

“I wish I has known Hedley. ‘Cause I can see that’s half of King’s problem. He try and do everything the way he think Hedley would do it. Louise used to tell him all the time, “Be yourself. That’s enough." 

                                          - ("Tonya") / August Wilson

Actors' Shakespeare Project

Presents August Wilson's 


Written by August Wilson

Directed by Summer L. Williams

Cast Includes: Naheem Garcia* as “Elmore,” James Ricardo Milord* as “King Hedley II,” Brandon G. Green* as “Stool Pigeon,” Omar Robinson* as “Mister,” Patrice Jean-Baptiste* as “Ruby,” Karimah Williams as “Tonya”

Additional Creative Team:   Scenic Design - Jon Savage; Costumes - Becca Jewett; Lighting - Anshuman Bhatia; Sound - Caroline Eng; Props - Saskia Martínez; Technical Director - Jared Coffin; Dramaturg - Regine Vital; Intimacy - Olivia Dumaine; Production Stage Manager - Jake Mariño; Assistant Stage Manager - Athéna-Gwendolyn Baptiste; Fight Choreography - Omar Robinson*; Wardrobe Supervisor - Marissa Wolf

* Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States  


March 8, 2024 through March 31, 2024 

(Contact Box Office for Exact Times)

Hibernian Hall in Roxbury,184 Dudley St., Boston, MA 02119  


For more information, phone # 617-241-2200 or visit www.ActorsShakespeareProject.org 



Please consult directly with venue for latest COVID-19 and any other health and safety protocols.

Actor's Shakespeare Project (ASP) has staged a phenomenal production of August Wilson's "KING HEDLEY II" and it should be mandatory to see this show.   

So often theatregoers are witness to shows that remind us of just how powerful theatre can be.

Then we are witness to shows like those by playwright August Wilson which remind us of how powerful theatre should be.

"KING HEDLEY II" is the ninth entry in Wilson’s 10-part series, “The Pittsburgh Cycle.” aka "The American Century Cycle." 

Wilson's characters are so thoroughly and superbly written and every single performance gripping, this is what makes this show compelling from start to finish.

The intensity and drama of life and death struggles in "KING HEDLEY II" is intoxicating as it examines African American life in the United States during the 20th Century.

"KING HEDLEY II" debuted in 1999 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and played a number of other regional theaters before its Broadway engagement. 

The show ran on Broadway in 2001 where it ran for 72 performances and 24 previews and was later revived Off-Broadway in 2007.

The play would go on to be nominated for both a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play

The play would also win actress Viola Davis both a Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play.

Following ASP's 2023 staging of Wilson's "SEVEN GUITARS," this entry in Wilson's "Cycle" saga is masterfully directed by Elliot Norton Award-winner Summer L. Williams

It is 1985, the Reagan years - and just coming off being incarcerated for the past seven years, KING HEDLEY II (James Ricardo Milord), named after his father from "SEVEN GUITARS," dreams of going straight. 

In a consummate performance, Milord provides a balanced, powerful portrayal of KING as a desperate man trying to hold onto his optimism in the face of an overwhelming negative reality. 

Much of this mad easier by the inherent richness of the Wilson text and the beauty of his nuanced story arc structure.

Wilson can provide more exposition and insight into a character in a single line of dialogue than other playwrights could accomplish in twelve.

(Photo: Karimah Williams as “Tonya” and James Ricardo Milord as “King Hedley II” in a scene from August Wilson's "KING HEDLEY II" presented bActor's Shakespeare Project in Boston, MA. now playing through March 31, 2024. Photo Credit: Maggie Hall Photography)

In "SEVEN GUITARS," KING HEDLEY II's father, "Hedley," was seen as a bitter man, mentally struggling, believing in saints, spirits, prophets and ghosts. Hedley desperately wanted to sire a messiah. 

In "KING HEDLEY II" we see some of these same above qualities if the title character...but is it hereditary? 

KING has dreams of opening his own video store, so he has roped in his friend, Mister (Omar Robinson) into selling  refrigerators around their neighborhood in Pittsburgh.

Robinson is thoroughly involved in playing "Mister," loyal to a fault for his friend and that loyalty is reciprocated. 

These two men could not be more closer than if they were brothers, and we feel completely that connection as the story progresses and as they make some incredibly risky decisions together.

If they raise enough cash, though, they feel that the video store is all but guaranteed. 

Characters who connect to the previous installment, "SEVEN GUITARS," include: 

KING, who is the son of "King Hedley;" "Mister," who is son to "Red Carter;" Stool Pigeon (Brandon G. Green), who used to play harmonica but is now an elderly curbside prophet and day-old newspaper collector; and Ruby (Patrice Jean-Baptiste), now older and filled with regret.

Both Green and Jean-Baptiste completely dominate in every scene in which they appear, sometimes conveying so much information in a singular glance. 

(Photo: James Ricardo Milord as “King Hedley II,”  Naheem Garcia as “Elmore” and Omar Robinson as “Mister” in a scene from August Wilson's  "KING HEDLEY II" presented bActor's Shakespeare Project in Boston, MA. now playing through March 31, 2024. Photo Credit: Maggie Hall Photography)

Other elements from "SEVEN GUITARS" return in this production, including critical set pieces and props used in the show. 

While events are different, there is definitely a very familiar feeling to this production, as if we have visited here before (and you did if you saw the prior ASP production).

There is also a foreboding - a sense this is a kind of crossroads where history and tragedy intersect.

There is a recurring "garden motif" involved where KING attempts to start a garden in a spot where it would be difficult for anything to grow. 

KING is determined to grow something - ANYTHING - in that little backyard lot, in complete defiance of the odds, similar to how he drives himself to succeed in life. 

The above is a perfect metaphor for KING's optimism and his attempts at building a better future for himself. 

Yet his impatience might very well be his undoing.

KING does not wish to wait for the future to arrive. He feels he has already lost too much time being in prison and does not want to wait any longer.

So, KING forces a more successful future to "grow" so he can provide a better life for himself and his pregnant wife, Tonya (Karimah Williams).

As the ever-defiant Tonya, Williams is outstanding opposite KING, who wants to have the baby while Tonya believes their current circumstances can only mean a future of only pain and disappointment for whatever child they bring into this world. 

(Photo: Patrice Jean-Baptiste as “Ruby” and Naheem Garcia as “Elmore” in a scene from August Wilson's "KING HEDLEY II" presented bActor's Shakespeare Project in Boston, MA. now playing through March 31, 2024. Photo Credit: Maggie Hall Photography)

Complicating matters is the return of Elmore (Naheem Garcia), a slick talking southern hustler and former boyfriend of Ruby.

Garcia is smooth and polished as Elmore, who is a complete and unapologetic swindler, always anxious to get in on the next angle.

However, while he also has come bearing secrets he is anxious to reveal, as Elmore learns of the latest get rich quick scheme of KING and Mister, he wants in.

While each personality is there, none of these characters come across as if the actors are playing into a limited stereotype. There is far more to everyone we meet in this story.

Wilson has gone to extensive lengths to provide complete and comprehensive backstories for all of his characters.

(Photo: Naheem Garcia as “Elmore,” James Ricardo Milord as “King Hedley II,” Brandon G. Green as “Stool Pigeon” and Omar Robinson as “Mister” in a scene from "KING HEDLEY II" presented bActor's Shakespeare Project in Boston, MA. now playing through March 31, 2024. Photo Credit: Maggie Hall Photography)

There's an old expression "If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage." Wilson proves this. 

Similar to his "SEVEN GUITARS," as we watch the various exchanges between these characters, it soon becomes clear that "KING HEDLEY II" is consummate drama.

"KING HEDLEY II" continues at the Hibernian Hall in Roxbury until March 31st, 2024 and, if you want to be reminded of what drama should be, definitely see this production. 

Up next at ASP will be "ROMEO AND JULIET" by William Shakespeare beginning May 10, 2024.

For tickets or more information, phone # 617-241-2200


Approximately three hours with one intermission.

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) 




Following the success of its 2023 production of "Seven Guitars," Actors’ Shakespeare Project returns to August Wilson’s American Century Cycle for "KING HEDLEY II".

Directed by Summer L. Williams, this Tony-nominated and Pulitzer finalist play will be produced in partnership with Hibernian Hall.

Fresh off of a seven-year stint in prison, "KING HEDLEY II" (named after his father, who was played by Johnnie Mack in ASP’s "Seven Guitars") dreams of going straight. 

He’s going to open his own video store — even if he has to steal every refrigerator in Pittsburgh to make it happen. 

Returning home to the Hill District in 1985, King finds that his community is beset by violence, con men, and redlining. 

As King fights to keep his family afloat, the harsh realities of Reagan’s America threaten to drag him under. 

Hailed by Variety in 1999 as “maybe the most passionate work that August Wilson has penned to date,” "KING HEDLEY II" dives into family tensions and the Black experience in America with Wilson’s signature poeticism and power.

Approximately Two hours, 50 minutes with one intermission. 


ACTORS' SHAKESPEARE PROJECT (ASP), founded in 2004, is an award­-winning professional theater company with a Resident Acting Company and extensive education, youth, and community programs. ASP performs and works in found spaces, schools, theaters and neighborhoods to present and explore the robust language, resonant stories, and deeply human characters in Shakespeare’s plays and in works by other great playwrights. Work is ensemble-­based and focused on intimacy, storytelling, language, relationships, voice, risk and artistry within and throughout the Boston area. 


ACTORS' SHAKESPEARE PROJECT believes Shakespeare’s words are urgently relevant to our times. Working as an ensemble of resident company members, ASP brings these words into the voices, bodies, and imaginations of actors, audiences, and neighborhoods. ASP does this through creative projects, including intimate productions and outreach programs that are informed by the spaces in which they happen. These projects inspire civic dialogue, build relationships between people, strengthen communities, and reveal something about what it means to be human here and now. 


442 Bunker Hill Street

Charlestown, MA 02129

Phone # 617-241-2200