American Blues Theater Presents FENCES Review — Before He Meets His Maker

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Swagger personified, August Wilson’s character Troy Maxson (Kamal Angelo Bolden) lets us see the world through his eyes in just about every line he says.

Have no doubt about it, his soul seems to always shout, he is a MAN.  He does what men do.  His physical prowess earns him a weekly check that he dutifully hands over to his wife Rose (Shanésia Davis) each Friday pay day.  That’s also when he shares his weekly pint of gin and jocular camaraderie with his work buddy Bono (Martel Manning).  Fridays and all days, Troy is ever the strict disciplinarian for his son Cory (Ajax Dontavius), charting a course for him to also one day be a MAN, or perhaps just cutting him down to a size Troy can always handle.  Troy also does what he can—or so we initially think—for his war-injured brother Gabriel (Manny Buckley). This includes paying the authorities bail money the way that one pays traffic tickets in all the Fergusons of the country if you are driving while Black.

Yes, have no doubt about it, Troy is a BLACK MAN, playing the cards that have been dealt him in the White Man’s World. He could have been a contender in major league baseball, were it not a White Man’s league and rules.  As reminder, a ball dangles from a tree in his yard ever tempting a practice swing.  The bat is there too, a weapon in the ready.  This is but one chapter in Troy’s backstory of coping in the world he was born to, a cold and hard landscape offering only grief and obstacles for him to overcome.

If August Wilson’s script seems to invite us to be Troy’s judge and jury, it is the brilliant staging by Director Monty Cole, in this writer’s view, that puts a light on our nagging question of how to judge this selfish man with no regard for his wife, and a cruelty to his son/s that seems to know no bounds.  The titular fence melds with an expanse of wooden floor to create a feeling of being in a container (Scenic Design Yeaji Kim).  Though of Troy’s making, it is confining nonetheless.

On the sidelines of the wooden stage that melts into the yard’s metaphorical fence, the wooden wall displays a cross and pew-like seats as one would find in church.  There sit the characters in the play, save Rose, that are not acting in that scene.  Like us, they seem to be taking the measure of the man, rapt in his story, and reacting in facial expression and posture as a silent Greek chorus, always keeping to the constraints of their characters. This writer especially could not help but to gawk periodically at Gabe on the sidelines, with his look of being sometimes tuned in and sometimes tuned out—a character in such stark contrast to Buckley’s many performances in many permutations of antipodal roles.

American Blues Theater Assembles Stellar Cast

With pitch perfect acting all around, you too might find a desire after the performance to ramble-crow about each and every actor.  For this writer, it is especially Shanésia Davis as Rose that commands you to change your schedule to ensure you will not miss this show.

Fences is a Pulitzer Prize winning script, we are reminded both in the program notes and by the poetry of Wilson’s lines.  If you too look to theater as a way to understand what being human is, the few hours you join Troy on his journey to meet his maker are well worth your time.

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CAST:

Kamal Angelo Bolden (Troy Maxson), Manny Buckley*(Gabriel), Shanésia Davis(Rose), Ajax Dontavius, (Cory), Martel Manning (Jim Bono), William Anthony Sebastian Rose (Lyons), and Riley Wells (Raynell)

CREATIVE TEAM:

Yeaji Kim (scenic design), Jared Gooding* (lighting design), Stephanie Cluggish (costume design), Rick Sims* (sound design), Verity Neely (properties design), Charlie Baker (fight & intimacy design), Cara Parrish* (stage manager) and Shandee Vaughan* (production manager).

WHEN:

Thru August 6, 2022

Thursdays: 7:30pm
Fridays: 7:30pm
Saturdays: 2:30pm (except, no 2:30pm show on July 9) and 7:30pm (except, no 7:30pm show on August 6)
Sundays: 2:30pm

WHERE:

Theater Wit
1229 W Belmont Ave
Chicago

TICKETS:

$25+

For more information and tickets visit the American Blues Theater website.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago.

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Amy Munice

About the Author: Amy Munice

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.

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