Friday, April 02, 2010

Fences - Seattle Repertory Theatre

Seattle Repertory Theatre
March 26-April 18, 2010
Tickets and Information

25 years ago, August Wilson's Fences opened for the Yale Repertory Theatre. In 2005, August Wilson, a resident of Seattle and a good friend of the Seattle Repertory Theater for 15 years, died of cancer. Five years later, Seattle Rep, the only theater in the country to have produced all of his plays, has honored the memory of Wilson and his play in this wonderful production.

Director Timothy Bond, a friend of Wilson's, has done a fantastic job bringing to life the world that Wilson created with his words. The curtain is left open before the play begins and the audience cannot help but soak up the atmosphere before the first character appears. Between William Bloodgood's set of broken-down buildings and a dying yard with bits of grass clinging to life and an unfinished fence and the bluesy music (some originally composed by Michael G. Keck), the audience is given much metaphorical and literal information on the state of the world in the play, yet they still yearn for more. The anticipation grows until the lights dim and the first words are spoken. As each scene progresses into the next (sometimes being only a night apart, other times having years of separation), Geoff Korf's subtle lighting cues does much to enhance the story; before Troy Maxson (James A. Williams) reveals to his wife Rose (Kim Stauton) that he has been cheating on her with another woman who is now pregnant with his child, the soft white and red light of previous scenes is replaced with a harsher red tone, indicating the fury of what is to come and what has happened in the past.

James A. Williams as Troy Maxson in Fences. Photo by Chris Bennion.

The acting, as is to be expected from Seattle Rep, is fantastic and helps to move the play along at a good clip (which is important for an almost three hour affair at the theater). Williams' portrayal of Troy leaves the audience haunted and unsure of whether they are to pity the man who did the best he could considering his circumstances or hate him for how he treats his wife and son and impedes their own growth. Stauton does an equally fantastic job of playing a strong yet dependent woman who wants the best for her and her family at almost any cost. William Hall Jr. (an actor this reviewer has had the pleasure of seeing before at Seattle Rep in Birdie Blue) plays Troy's best friend and male conscience, Jim Bono. Though perhaps not as outspoken as Rose, Bono tries time and time again to keep Troy on the right path and reminds him when he veers. Where much of the conflict in Troy's life occurs is through his two sons, Lyons and Cory, and his mentally-disabled older brother, Gabriel, played by Jose A Rufino, Stephan Tyrone Williams, and Craig Alan Edwards, respectively. All do a great job of playing not only the obvious side of their characters such as grifter and football player but also emphasizing the multiple dimensions with Gabriel's love for his brother and Cory's desire to overcome his fear of his father while making his own way through the world.

(L-R) James A. Williams, Kim Staunton, Craig Alan Edwards, and William Hall Jr. in Fences. Photo by Chris Bennion.

As to be expected with an August Wilson story, the portrayal of African American life is complicated and difficult, yet there is hope at the end. Seattle Repertory has accomplished much with this production and it is safe to say much of their achievement has to do with their history with the writer himself. Wilson's legacy lives on at the Seattle Rep and you would be amiss to pass up the opportunity to see this play. Catch it before it moves onto Syracuse.

Review by David Dukart

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