Review: Fences

Twenty-five years after its debut, August Wilson’s drama is as powerful as ever.

By Laura Dannen April 2, 2010

Troy (James A. Williams) relives the glory days in Fences. Courtesy Chris Bennion.

Troy Maxon can’t catch a break. Born a little too early, and with a bit too much pride, the former Negro League ballplayer-turned-garbage collector carries a chip on his shoulder that weighs down his entire family. And in the latest production of Fences, now playing at Seattle Repertory Theatre, you can feel that pain palpably. Thanks to a high-energy cast—with powerful performances by Broadway’s James A. Williams and Kim Staunton as Troy and wife Rose— August Wilson’s Pulitzer-winning drama pulsates with raw emotion. You cringe as Troy comes to blows with teenage son Cory (Stephen Tyrone Williams in his West Coast debut) over Cory’s own American dream: to go to college and play football. And a pivotal second-act argument between Williams and Staunton is so passionate, you want to jump on stage and take sides. There’s screaming, fighting, betrayal—it’s riveting. Give director Tim Bond credit where it’s due. The Wilson aficionado has made it his goal to direct all 10 shows in the playwright’s 20th century cycle. He’s halfway there, and Fences is clearly in capable hands.

Fences runs through April 18 at Seattle Repertory Theatre.

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