In the Wine Time, ETA Creative Arts Foundation. What could be more romantic than a young writer’s memory of the summer day just before his 16th birthday? Especially at dusk–“the wine time,” when people emerge from their homes to sit on their stoops, drink, gossip, squabble and make up, dance to records and to music on the radio, and survey Derby Street society: swaggering bucks, flirtatious femmes, strutting sirens, prissy homegirls, upper-window snoops, curbside loiterers. And one distant goddess whose slow smile promises a future of mystery and adventure.

Ed Bullins’s 1968 In the Wine Time does not tell a story so much as draw a picture of life in an east-coast ghetto. In this volatile universe, where destinies are determined by the flash of a razor or a distraught mother’s cry, the landscape flaunts hues as vivid as a Red Grooms painting while the ubiquitous music gives the most violent actions choreographic grace and the most commonplace utterances a lyrical resonance, as when a husband and wife soliloquize in simultaneous spoken harmony.

The uniformly sensitive cast in this ETA production, assembled by director Charles Michael Moore, creates sharply etched characters, framed by Robert C. Martin’s sunset-tinted set and Carl Cohen’s evocative period pop score. The result is a richly textured panorama of a world now lost, fertile with inspiration for the artist to whom it gave birth.

–Mary Shen Barnidge