At the beginning of August Wilson’s Fences, you are ushered into the distinct setting of 1950s Pittsburgh and the home of Troy Maxson, a former Negro League baseball player and now city garbageman who is fighting for workplace equality.
It soon becomes clear, though, that you are experiencing something much more universal than this one man’s story, as Wilson’s piercing dialogue flies at the audience like the blistering line drives that Maxson was known to hit.
Everyman’s stupendous revival of the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning play first performed in 1987 could not be more timely, as it deals with issues that are still part of our social fabric—the dissolution of dreams, family strife, racial and economic inequality. Wilson’s impeccable writing is scintillating, at times hilarious, and at others fraught with emotion.
But it is the performances by the play’s seven actors that elevate it into one of the most memorable shows of the year. Each conveys the depth and humanity of their unique characters expertly and hauntingly.
Alan Bomar Jones, as Troy, is the father you’d love to hate for his imperiousness towards his son Cory—and Cory’s dreams of playing football—yet somehow you just can’t. Both Wilson and Jones allow you to see Troy’s flaws in a way that even when he is his most detestable makes you realize why he’s made the decisions he has, and inadvertently, why he is the man he has become.
As Rose, Troy’s wife and Cory’s mother, actress Joy Jones is masterfully on point. You feel the deep pain of her troubled relationship with Troy, as she delivers some of Wilson’s best lines—“I planted myself inside you and waited to bloom. And it didn’t take me no 18 years to find out the soil was hard and rocky and it wasn’t never gonna bloom,” she says in Act Two.
Baltimore School for the Arts alum Brayden Simpson genuinely showcases Cory’s struggles of growing up and discovering a flawed world, and as Gabriel, Troy’s war veteran brother, Bryant Bentley is heartbreakingly raw.
Don’t expect to leave the theater with your emotions intact. By the time the lights came up after Wilson’s incredible finale last Friday, the audience had already sprung to its feet. Afterwards, a few patrons—myself included—stayed behind dabbing their eyes.