August Wilson’s “Fences” Opens the Huntington Theater Season

Fences.Huntington.116.jpgBy Kayla Harrity
September 30, 2009
A fence is normally built to keep people in. But this fence is built to keep a family together. August Wilson’s play “Fences” tackles family struggles and segregation.
It is set in 1957. Director Kenny Leon introduces us to protagonist Troy Maxson played by John Beasley. Troy believes he has lost his chance to play professional baseball because he is black. His struggle with segregation affects his relationship with his family and wife Rose. Rose is played by Crystal Fox.
Rose’s sincere and charming attitude counteract the rugged side of her husband Troy. Troy spends most of his time building a fence for his wife, although he still finds time to cause trouble and angst among his family and friends.
The opening scene of “Fences” introduces family life in the Maxson home. Along the rustic scenery and brick buildings, you see Troy drinking alcohol with his friend Bono, played by Eugene Lee. The relationships and conversation between the two men show a strong bond between friends. Troy’s son Lyons adds a bit of comic relief when he is constantly asking for money from his father. Lyons is played by Brandon Dirden.
The character of Gabriel, played by Bill Nunn, brings constant laughs among the audience. Gabriel has been ailed by a metal plate in his head from an accident in World War II. His quirky personality and jokes bring a lighthearted feeling to the stage. One cannot help but smile when Gabe graces the stage offering roses to Troy’s wife Rose.
Common attributes between Troy and his second son Cory, played by Warner Miller are seen throughout the play. Cory has big dreams, like his father once had. A college football recruiter is interested in speaking with him, but Troy does not give Cory the permission he deserves. He does not want his son to live the life that he had. The family faces numerous struggles and when the audience thinks life is looking bright for them, tragedy strikes. Rose is betrayed and the anger and devastation are present on her face. The family’s earthquake eventually brings them together, creating a new life with new promises. The fence built by Troy brings the family together in the end, in ways that no one will expect.
“Fences” is the first play of the Huntington Theater’s new season in Boston. It is one of Wilson’s ten plays which show the life of African-Americans througout different decades of the last century. “Fences” was the second of the series. It first appeared on Broadway in 1987 and earned August Wilson his first Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. Wilson died in 2005 from liver cancer. He was 60 years old.
Photo credit: Eric Antoniou from Huntington Theatre.