“Fences” – Arizona Theatre Company

This review aired on KBAQ February 15, 2016


Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix rarely sees a powerful drama with the stature of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Fences.”  Couple the insightful play that is part of Wilson’s telling “Pittsburgh Cycle” of scripts with an exemplary Arizona Theatre Company production and you have one of the finest plays to ever be presented here.  The exhausting but gripping play spans almost three hours as it keeps audiences fascinated as a gifted cast create each character with revealing depth.  Directed brilliantly by Lou Bellamy, “Fences,” like all Wilson’s dramas, looks at the changing African-American experience during the 20th century.

“Fences” explores Troy Maxson’s family.  Troy’s a Pittsburgh garbage man in 1957 who struggles to support his wife of 18 years, Rose, Lyons, a son from an earlier marriage, Cory, Rose and Troy’s only child, and Gabriel, Troy’s war-damaged brother.  As Troy arrives at his rundown house with best friend, Bono, the play reveals a myriad of complicated situations that exist within his family.  We also learn of some distressing actions by Troy that have alienated Cory and about a dalliance resulting in daughter Raynell.  Troy’s actions create turmoil and family reactions threaten the family.  The ways these issues manifest themselves are dramatic but believable and they create amazing insights into the ways this family deals with these challenges.

Bellamy’s taut and gripping staging adds to the reality of the Wilson’s magnificent play.  The production is visually enhanced by a stunning setting that tells audiences about the family they are about to meet as they enter the theater before the play begins.

Most remarkable here are seven fantastic actors who create with vivid intensity each character as they transform Wilson’s script into the required intensity as these remarkable performers reveal these complicated characters’ deeply ingrained beliefs that guide their every action.

Stunning is David Alan Anderson’s Troy as he masterfully exposes Troy’s myriad of emotions and stubborn attitudes.  While you often hate Troy and the terrible things he’s done, Anderson makes you also understand Troy’s many frustrations.  Kim Staunton creates a winning Rose, a woman who learns of her husband’s unfaithfulness after she’s devoted herself to Troy as she ignores her own needs that Troy fails to supply.  Edgar Sanchez’s Cory bites and scratches at his hateful father and James T. Alfred’s Lyons reveals his inheritance of his father’s bumbling ways.  Marcus Taylor has a pithy scene as Troy’s friend Jim and Terry Bellamy is shattering as Gabriel, Troy’s war-damaged brother.  Amazing is Simeeyah Grace Baker as Troy’s young daughter Raynell.

ATC must be sincerely thanked for bringing such a brilliant production of August Wilson’s compelling “Fences” to Phoenix.  “Fences” continues through February 28 at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix.  For tickets, call the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-252-8497 or order online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: A