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The Piano Lesson

August Wilson


Act II, Scene 5—Part II

page 1 of 2


The two young men begin to move the piano. Berniece exits up the stairs. She reappears with Crawley's gun. Doaker and Avery urge the siblings to talk things through. Hesitant at first, Lymon eventually decides to continue helping Willie. Berniece orders Maretha out of the room.

Suddenly a drunken Wining Boy enters, rambling about some fellow named Patchneck Red. Comically breaking the tension of the scene, he attempts to fish a drink out of Boy Willie's coat and sits down to play a song he wrote in memory of Cleotha. Willie attempts to dislodge him, and Wining Boy defensively spreads his arms over the piano.

A knock at the door follows, and Grace enters. She and Lymon have a date for the picture show. Suddenly everyone but Grace can sense Sutter's presence. Grace soon notices it as well and exits, and Lymon follows her.

Sutter's presence reasserts itself, and Avery moves to bless the piano using a candle and a bottle of water. He begins his prayers, sprinkling water and reading from the bible. Boy Willie intercedes: "All this old preaching stuff. hell, just tell him to leave." As Avery attempts to drive out the ghost, Willie flings a pot of water around the room, working himself into a frenzy: "Hey Sutter! Sutter! Get your ass out of this house!"

He charges up the stairs. The sound of Sutter's ghost is heard, and an unseen force drives Willie back and chokes him. He charges back up the stairs, and the two engage in a life-and-death struggle. Ultimately Avery is stunned into silence; Doaker and Wining Boy gape in disbelief.

Suddenly, "from somewhere old," Berniece realizes what she must do. She begins to play a song on the piano, both a "commandment and a plea," an "exorcism and a dressing for battle," a "rustle of wind blowing across two continents." "I want you to help me" she sings, naming her ancestors. The sound of a train approaching is heard, and the noise upstairs subsides. Willie taunts Sutter, and Berniece thanks her family's ghosts.

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