Bonstelle Theatre stages brilliant production of August Wilson’s ‘Fences’

By Patty Nolan, reposted from The Examiner. Read the full review here.

Rose Maxson (Will Bryson) and Troy Maxson (Kayla Mundy). Courtesy Bonstelle Theatre

Rose Maxson (Will Bryson) and Troy Maxson (Kayla Mundy). Courtesy Bonstelle Theatre

A fence means something different depending on which side of it one happens to be standing. A fence can be used to define a border – it signals “this is mine, not yours.” A fence can protect what’s inside from those on the outside; conversely, it can imprison people inside who long to get out.

In August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play “Fences,” garbage collector Troy Maxson deals with literal and metaphorical fences as he struggles to make a better life for his family in 1950s-era Chicago. This new Bonstelle production, the latest outstanding effort by Director Lynch R. Travis, is a compelling story about a family struggling with race relations, paternal responsibility and the gap in generational expectations that affect every family dynamic.

As the play opens, Troy (Will Bryson) is bragging to his friend and co-worker, Bono (Danté Jones), about how he officially complained to management because only the white workers get to drive the garbage trucks, while the African American garbage men are required to lift and empty the heavy cans all day long. We sense that this is a common theme with Troy – the expectation that a black man must work twice as hard as the white man and be happy with half the reward. We quickly learn that Troy is an imaginative, proud, physically strong man who carries a deep resentment against his father, against the white-man’s world, and against anyone who challenges his authority.

Troy’s stories of his own exploits are hilariously larger than life – including a wrestling match with Death himself. Troy’s wife Rose (Kalya Mundy) tries to leaven Troy’s big talk with practical words, but it only seems to provoke Troy to tell bigger, more outrageous stories. As we watch him sawing boards for the fence he is building, he reminisces about swatting baseballs over the outfield fence back when he was one of the highest scoring players in the Negro Leagues. Even with his mighty swing, he couldn’t clear the racial barrier that kept African Americans from playing Major League Baseball. And when that fence came down, after WWII, Troy was too old to compete. Now in his early ‘50s, his resentment includes the men of color who now play in the majors – certain that their skills are nothing compared to his own prowess.

Read the full review here.

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