American Players Theatre presents August Wilson’s work FENCES - Keeping the World In. This RECOMMENDED Best Play pick is playing now through September 28, 2019
Onstage, we look at the backyard of a rundown house with faded blue paint and a half built fence. A lone, scrappy looking tree stands off to the side with a baseball bat leaning alongside it and a rag ball hanging from its branches. As dusk falls around the theatre, we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect setting for August Wilson’s FENCES.
Feels Like Friday Night at American Players Theatre
Troy and his friend Bono stumble happily into Troy’s yard still clad in their work jumpsuits. After getting off work, they’re ready to let loose and relax. It’s Friday, they just got paid and share a bottle of gin between the two of them. They laugh and joke with each other and are soon joined by Troy’s wife, Rose, on the porch for their Friday night ritual.
This snappy dialogue at the beginning draws us into the world of this African-American family getting by in the 1950s. As the story continues, their world slowly unravels as Troy attempts to keep it together, much like building a fence around his world. Part of Wilson’s famed Pittsburgh Cycle, this is a slice of life play conveying the realities of African-American experiences at that time. Though this family doesn’t have much in the way of material things, they have nonetheless carved out a place for themselves to get by. Racial realities are in the mix- in this play, as in life.
Troy Maxson, the leading man played by David Alan Anderson, is the central force that our other characters orbit around. He’s gruff and harsh when confronted and feels a need to claim his place as the center of the household. But when he’s joking with Bono or reminiscing about his past glory days, we’re right there enjoying those moments with him.
Karen Aldridge as Troy’s wife gives an especially stellar performance, in this writer’s opinion. We see her transform from a loving and caring wife to claiming her personhood. As she delivers her impassioned speech to Troy in the second act, we see just how much she has settled for in order to keep her place in the world.
Jamal James and Yao Dogbe portray Troy’s sons—and show us the hope of the next generation. They each are pursuing their respective dreams of becoming a musician and a football player.
Though everyone in the family seems to lose a piece of themselves in their relationships with Troy, they all come together and make their peace with him by the end. This reconciliation is the soul of the story.
American Players Theatre Chooses Work That Resonates Today
FENCES, set in the 50’s, still resonates with life today. Now, as then, we feel the need to push against racial inequality in order to get fair treatment. Now, as then, we see parents trying to do what’s best for their children. And most of all, we see the need to fight for your hopes and dreams.
If you’re not one for a tear jerkers, this show might not be a good fit for you. However, FENCES would be a good fit for any August Wilson fans out there as well as those who love shows with family drama.
David Alan Anderson
Bryant Louis Bentley
Taressa Marie Hennes
Ron OJ Parson
Rachel Anne Healy
Now through September 28, 2019
Performance schedule varies; check website for details
American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Rd.
Spring Green, WI
About the Author
Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.
Editor's Note: Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski