September 14, 2016

There’s an upright piano on the stage of the Atlantic Theater Company, where “Marie and Rosetta,” a new play by George Brant, supplemented by some mighty music-making, opened on Wednesday night. But it may take awhile for you to notice, since the more striking aspect of Riccardo Hernández’s set is the array of coffins surrounding that piano, some of them draped with dresses. The funeral home in 1946 Mississippi, where the play takes place, functions as a rehearsal room, a dressing room and, more alarmingly, a bedroom for the play’s two real-life characters: Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Kecia Lewis), a celebrated gospel and R&B singer who also played guitar and is considered an influential figure in the birth of rock ’n’ roll, and her protégée and collaborator, the younger gospel singer Marie Knight (Rebecca Naomi Jones).