By Michelle Wilson, Guest Blogger
Fences is a story of a black, working class family that opens in the back yard of a blue-collar, urban setting in the late 1950’s. Troy Maxson is the father of two children, both from different mothers. He has one son that is still living at home, along with his wife Rose.
The relationship between Troy and Rose is much the typical one of that era, where the husband works and mother stays home to raise the children. It is apparent that Troy’s attitude toward his son Cory, aptly played by Jay Reeves, is uptight as he was brought up in a time period that believed he was born with two strikes against him before he came to the plate. That thought process has followed him throughout his life and is finally coming to a head. His outdated opinion of what is important proves difficult change is a sign of the times.
Esau Pritchett’s delivery of Maxson is soulful, sincere, and strong. He’s an attention grabber with apparent emotion. He truly evolves into the part of an uneasy man striving to maneuver through family life overtaken with promiscuity and drinking. He is expected to stay the path of what is required of him at home but is called to a sincere struggle when things start to get out of hand in his life. Pritchett puts his heart into the character and absorbs the audience with his precise timing. Troy becomes an unruly, broken man in an implied fight between God and himself.
Julanne Chidi Hill begins her portrayal of a pleasing Rose, a woman who knows her place but carries a hint of position, regardless. Hill’s motherly tenure is evident in this representation of a protector, with a son who is merely striving to be a regular kid. She holds court and gathers dismay as the audience becomes emotionally engaged with a crucial delivery in the second act.
A gratifying supporting cast provides a stellar job as a whole. The show’s shining moment occurs when Gabriel, played by Darryl Alan Reed, delivers a spot-on performance of a mentally disabled man trying to make his way through life in his happy-go-lucky way. His attentive portrayal is weighty and spot-on without feeling overdone.
After being left on the edge of my seat, scene changes felt a bit long and I found myself listening to the words of the period music and becoming a bit restless. With a quick recovery, the show has a nice pace, regardless.
Set design is one of the production’s strongest assets. Simplistic yet detailed. The intrinsic nature of weeds making their way through the cracks of the concrete and a random antenna on top of an apartment building, are what make this set realistic and charming. Kudos to designer Edward E. Haynes, Jr.
At this particular performance, two cell phones rang in the audience during scenes. We, as an audience, have a responsibility to minimize distractions as a courtesy, not only to the actors on stage, but also to fellow audience members. I found this to be inappropriate and disappointing, although we had been asked to silence our phones prior to curtain.
This is a timely show for today’s war against racism and the associated societal struggles. It was a pleasure to see a mixed cultural group of audience members coming together to encounter the way things used to be as we venture forward into America’s next phase.
August Wilson’s Fences runs at the Lone Tree Arts Center until April 21st. Tickets are available online here, over the phone at 720-509-1000, and in-person at the Box Office.