While King Hedley II’s 2001 Broadway run received mixed reviews (the New York Times called it the most meandering piece in two-time Pulitzer-winner August Wilson’s 10-decade cycle of plays about African-American life in 20th-century America), subsequent versions have impressed some prior doubters. Arena Stage’s production, directed by Timothy Douglas, tells the story of a 1980s ex-con with a scarred face and a haunting past who returns to a rundown Pittsburgh rowhouse with dreams of opening a business. Played by Bowman Wright, last seen at Arena as Martin Luther King Jr. in The Mountaintop, Hedley struggles in a gun-filled environment where he faces social oppression in interactions with his girlfriend, a fellow conman, and a Bible-quoting, newspaper-hoarding neighbor named Stool Pigeon. Wilson’s script is full of long, caustic monologues and dialogue with historical references and funny trash talk. With an impressive cast that includes André DeShields as Stool Pigeon, if this working-class tale meanders a bit, audiences won’t care. The play runs Feb. 6 to March 8 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW. $40–$90. (202) 488-3300. arenastage.org.

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