Whether to continue with the strictly planned lifestyle of his past and work with his candidacy as mayor as the first priority or to deviate from the usual and see past the personal accomplishment to follow the righteous law is the gauntlet of Harmond Wilks in August Wilson’s “Radio Golf.” Wilson’s social commentary dealing with political corruption and racism is a screaming testament to the flaws in our legal system today. The corporations and contracts have the real power in any business and the little guy is just an ant in the way, easily brushed off. The racism that is present in this system is clearly evident in “Radio Golf.” Roosevelt being used as a minority front to decrease the buying price of the radio station is a blatant example of the racism that Wilson is showing the audience. Roosevelt’s blindness to it is due to his ambition of grandeur covering up the immorality of the situation.
Anthony Chisholm’s portrayal of Old Joe is absolutely breathtaking. He never misses a beat and delivers each line with a potency that digs into the viewer’s brain and sticks there. His facial expressions and physical slowness/stiffness are very appropriate for a character of his age and are extremely convincing. Rocky Carroll’s depiction of Harmond Wilks is an impressive show. It is not the most spectacular performance of the evening, but it is certainly forceful and entertaining. Though he seems a bit stiff at times, it can work for the character of Harmond because Harmond is such a regimented person in his daily life. However, it can detract from the reality of the show at times. Roosevelt Hicks, as played by James A. Williams, is an extremely dynamic character. His energy and his presence command the attention of the audience upon his entrance at every point. Though some moments seem forced, his comfort on the stage and in this role make him a very believable Roosevelt Hicks. Denise Burse’s performance as Mame seems, unfortunately, rather wooden. It feels like all of her lines are over enunciated to the point that everything seems forced. Her physicality also seems stiff. With looser movements and more fluid speech, her performance would be wonderful. However, as it stands, her portrayal of Mame seems completely compulsory. Lastly but not least, John Earl Jelks’ rendition of Sterling Johnson is a very entertaining work. He fluctuates between hot and cool tempers very effortlessly and smoothly with the rapidity of a live human person. He seems to be the most believable and realistic character and portrayal in this production.
The blocking, for the most part, is wonderful. There are a few distinct moments of sitting that become too long. The impulse to stand or shift weight or at least recline is missed and is replaced by more sitting in the same position. Aside from the stiffness of certain moments, the blocking seems fluid and natural throughout the majority of the production. The set is simply phenomenal. The first thing that the viewer notices on the way into the theater is the immense set. With the barber’s shop to audience left, the diner to audience right and homes above the main action, the stage is surrounded by the decay of this city. David Gallo’s design is a shining mark upon this production. The viewer feels immediately drawn into this world with the naturalness of the office and the decrepitude of the surrounding rooms. The lighting is also a glowing endorsement for this production. Donald Holder’s only flaw is at one point when the outside lighting turns a bright blue. The color was so unnatural that it draws the viewer out of the action of the production and transplants the attention on the windows. However, throughout the majority of the production, the lighting outside is very natural and very realistic. Also, the slight increases and decreases in the main room lighting are extremely effective in drawing focus and intensifying the scene. The costuming is also extremely natural. Susan Hilferty’s vision provides a clear view of the situation in which each character is living. Sterling’s pain-covered smock, Joe’s tattered jacket, Harmond’s immaculate suit and shoes are all evidences of the naturalistic world painted by the designers of this production. Even the cell phones are realistic and fit wit the 1997 time period! The most effective supporting element is the biography of August Wilson in the program. This preface to “Radio Golf” helps greatly in understanding where Wilson is coming from with this play. Otherwise, it seems that it is simply a play about racism. However, when taken in the context of his other plays, one sees the American Dream present in every line, every step, and every brick.