August Wilson’s Century Cycle > Spoiler-free scene breakdown
- Premiered: 1982; Broadway 2017
- Setting: 1977; Becker’s cab station, Pittsburgh
Act I.i (morning?)
Youngblood accuses “old man” Turbo of cheating in checkers; Turbo accuses Fielding of drinking his gas money; Youngblood turns down a grocery run, which Turbo takes; Youngblood gets defensive at Doub’s silent look; Shealy the numbers runner describes seeing the face of the one woman he loves in all the other women; Philmore (customer) asks for ride home after being out late; Turnbo (nebby) tells story about driving a teen customer who stole a TV from his (the teen’s) grandmother; they discuss Pope winning numbers; Shealy asks Becker about getting his (Shealy’s) nephew a job at the mill; Youngblood discusses “Cigar Annie” causing a commotion in the street (Turnbo recognizes “she’s sending out an SOS”). Turnbo asks Youngblood to get him coffee; Y objects; Doub tells Turnbo (critical of Y behind his back) to let Y alone; T thinks Y was cheating on his wife with her sister; Y did end up bringing the coffee, but Turnbo rejects it; Youngblood doesn’t have enough money to buy house under the GI bill.
I.ii (that afternoon)
Becker reading newspaper; Turnbo reading Playboy; Becker keeps order as Turnbo and Youngblood bicker over money; Turnbo tries to jump Y’s place in line; with Y out; Rena stops by looking for Youngblood; Turnbo lays on the charm, saying she deserves better than Y, tells her that Y has been spending time with her sister; page 22, Turnbo has 2 lines — should the first be Doub? Turnbo wants to eavesdrop when Rena and Youngblood meet; R says $80 is missing from grocery money; Y says he took it for unspecified expenses (we know he wants to buy that house); the convo does not go well; Doub talks about the city’s plan to close the building; Becker desribes being tired after Coreen died (he is now with Lucille) when phone rings, all assume it’s bad news about the building, but Becker has learned his son is getting out of jail tomorrow.
I.iii (next morning)
Youngblood has spent the night here; Turnbo tells Youngblood the story of how Becker’s son was in college studying to be an engineer, and got caught dating a rich white girl. (Turnbo tells the story with relish; I don’t want to spoil the plot.) Youngblood’s reaction is not what Turnbo expected; T accuses Y of mistreating his wife, Y attacks T; Becker tries to mediate, but Turnbo escalates; Youngblood rejects a call that involves hauling suitcases, Fielding tries to take it, Becker insists Y take it; Becker has his hands full keeping peace; catches Fielding drinking, fires him; Fielding won’t leave.
I.iv. (half hour later; radio and distant thunder)
Booster has arrived. Fielding describes a dream of his wife in heaven; Becker arrives, sees Fielding is still there; tells him to come back sober tomorrow; awkward handshake; they haven’t talked at all, Booster is satisfied, having paid time for what he says he had to do; Becker is ashamed. Booster describes as a child noticing that his father got smaller when Mr Rand threatened to throw the family out during a snowstorm b/c they didn’t have rent; Booster is about ready to leave when Becker follows up with…. I won’t spoil the end of Act I.
Doub and Turnbo debate Lena Horne vs. Sarah Vaughan; Turnbo tells a story about women and trouble; “Here lies Bubba Boo. Was caught with Betty Jean instead of Betty Sue.” Fielding says he and Becker are OK now; Youngblood accepts money for working on Doub’s car; Doub describes his Korean War experience; the drivers discuss what they will do when station closes; Doub describes a time Turnbo pulled a gun on a customer over 50c; Becker is trying to get Shealey’s nephew a job at mill (but has done nothing for his own son); Booster arrives, buys numbers; Rena arrives (on way to accounting class); they continue convo from yesterday; he tells her about the house; Rena “you did the right thing but you did it wrong.” Youngblood sees himself as very different than his reckless youth (my words, not his); Rena worries people sometimes change back; they make up; Becker encourages them to settle down; Becker calls the drivers for a meeting tonight at 7; Becker cheerful, makes pitch for Shealey’s nephew, but is cold when his own son arrives; Booster has come from his mother’s grave, and all signs point to a heartfelt monologue; (read the scene to see what happens). Fielding comments on Booster’s suit, says he used to make suits for Billy Esktine; name-drops Count Basie; laments the bottle ruined his dreams; Booster share his own lament (lost academic career; at 7 he dreamt he had a bicycle); Booster swigs from Fielding’s bottle, in defiance of chalkboard listing Becker’s rules; Philmore enters, drunk, having been kicked out by his woman; he doesn’t have enough money but Fielding spots him; F seems happy to have an audience.
II.ii (early evening)
Becker holds meeting with drivers; discusses raising money (from the drivers) to mount legal defense; monologue about his dedication to work, including his habit of answering the phone “car service” (not “Becker’s Cabs” — he’s putting the service first. Fielding and Turnbo feud a bit. Becker mentions in passing stopping by the mill before the shift starts. Starts to say something to Doub, but doesn’t finish it. Tunrbo hands Becker his hat; Doub and Turnbo head off; Doub invites Fielding, bribes him with a sandwhich. (There’s a sense the men are working together, following Becker’s lead.)
II.iii (the following day)
Can’t say much without spoiling the ending… the characters respond variously to an event that happened off-stage between scenes. Booster ends up attacking Doub.
II.iv. (three days later)
The chalkboard has changed. Youngblood discusses moving to his new house in a nice neighborhood; Fielding comments on preaching; Turnbo needles him over his alcoholism; Shealy asks Doub what happens next; another arrival, a short speech, a phone call, two words, an ending. (No spoilers here.)