The Black Rep Knocks It Out Of The Park With “Fences”

fence-ronContinuing their second go round of the August Wilson complete play collection, The Black Rep has scored a big one with this incarnation of “Fences.” Led by two stalwart actors and a brilliant ensemble backing them up, this is a strong start to the 2018 theatre season.

Ron Himes is the Artistic Director of The Black Rep and an actor of great renown in our area as well. His portrayal of the flawed and bitter Troy Maxson is flawless as we see every heartbreak, disappointment and stubborn pride associated with one of the greatest characters ever created- right up there with Willy Loman. As a power-hitting ballplayer (37 home runs last season), he is facing the infamous color barrier that had held black players out of the big leagues. “Fences” takes place between 1957 and 1964 as Troy has just missed his chance to join Jackie Robinson and the other black players who were becoming common now in American ballparks. As he says, “life is a fastball on the outside corner,” something that should have made him a natural for the game but instead has led to years of “what might have happened.”

As Rose, his wife, Linda Kennedy also turns in a masterful performance. Her second act speech about the suffering she has gone through by sticking with him through all of his bravado and bitterness comes off the stage and strikes the audience right in the kisser. It’s a memorable moment that can’t be forgotten. Also, returning to town from his new home in New Orleans is Robert Alan Mitchell as Troy’s friend from the factory, Jim Bono. He gives a strong performance in a role that seems to be low key compared to the vast power of Troy, but settles in as the voice of reason.

fence-logoRichard Agnew is very convincing as Gabriel, the mentally impaired brother of Troy who has a metal plate in his head. His rambling and repetitive speeches speak well of Troy’s effect on everyone as he constantly asks, “why is Troy mad at me?” Troy, in fact, is very protective of his brother but his constant bitterness takes the biggest toll on Gabriel. Steven Maurice is fine as Troy and Roses’ oldest son, Lyons who is also intimidated by his father who constantly relates Lyons’ fate to the fate he has met- not realizing that times are changing. Brian McKinley is the youngest son, Cory, who also can do nothing to please his father. Rounding out the cast is little Lena Sanaa Williams as Raynell who does a great job as Troy’s illegitimate daughter.

Director Lorna Littleway pulls Wilson’s masterpiece a notch above as she wrenches every ounce of passion from the script and shines a light on the power and majesty of this superbly crafted play. Jim Burwinkel’s rustic set is perfect for the Hill District of Pittsburgh in 50’s Pennsylvania and the Joseph Clapper lighting design enhances the  proceedings. The Marissa Perry costume design is right on the mark Kareem Deanes’ sound provides a dramatic effect to the evening.

fence-longshotA complex and involved script takes on an honest and nuanced portrayal thanks to the inspired team at The Black Rep. August Wilson’s “Fences” plays through January 21st and it’s a play you won’t want to miss. Give them a call at 314-534-3807 for tickets or more information.

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