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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Fences” a strong effort that tests the audience

    “Fences” is both an impressive and caged production. It is exhilarating, yet infuriating. To summarize such a capricious production with one word seems impossible; but only brilliant could describe the Arizona Theatre Company’s production of the late August Wilson play.

    Before the first words are even uttered, it is obvious the audience has transitioned into a new world. The set, crafted with a careful hand by Vicki Smith, depicts a larger-than-life, poor, decaying two-story house as the stage centerpiece. This, combined with electrical wires, the outline of the neighboring homes and graffiti tagged walls, allows the Maxson family home to come alive as its own character.

    “Fences” is a 1983 play by Wilson that revolves around the experiences of black people throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s. The Maxson family is examined under a magnifying glass to tell a tale of family bonds — how they’re maintained or severed, that is — responsibility, love and humanity as a whole.

    Troy Maxson, the family patriarch, is a disheveled 53-year-old man whose dream to become a professional baseball player was cut short, though it is uncertain whether this is due to color barriers at the time or simply his old age. He lives the life of a trash collector and believes the only thing he has to look forward to is bringing home a paycheck every Friday to his wife, Rose. He is tragic and fallible while she is patient and forgiving. Together, they parent two sons: Lyons, a 34-year-old musician and Cory, a high school football player.

    David Alan Anderson’s interpretation of Troy is expansive, often filled with magnanimous energy while simultaneously utilizing realistic and poignant vocals and physicality. The performance creates a Troy that is both loveable and utterly despicable. Anderson shows us a vulnerable storyteller who aims to entertain those around him while remaining as closed-off as the fence surrounding his home.

    Opposite Anderson, Kim Staunton plays Troy’s counterpart and wife, Rose. She is heartbreaking and fully aware of the multifaceted characterization into which she must dive. She displays herself as a woman of great strength when faced with Troy’s infidelity. By the end of the play, she somehow loses this quality. Staunton chooses to soften Rose and defend Troy’s life choices despite her previous strength.

    The best performance came from the smallest role — Gabriel, Troy’s war-damaged brother whose madness stems from the metal plate in his head. Terry Bellamy takes on Gabriel with simplicity and child-like energy. It would be easy to approach Gabriel with the generalized stroke of “insanity,” but Bellamy understands the depth behind Gabriel’s inability to separate delusion from reality and approaches his character delicately.

    And yet, the production was still lacking somehow. Despite impeccable acting and beautiful scene design, the production lagged in timing, using elongated transitions that withdrew from the viewer’s experience. At one point during Tuesday’s performance, fellow audience members called out mid-scene that the show was “too long.” It is impossible to do Wilson’s poetic masterpiece injustice, but the indulgent transitions resulted in an uncalled for drop in energy.

    Overall, “Fences” is a must-see production. Its heart-wrenching and guttural content is backed with a cast that ebb and flow together as one. The actors steadily approach the tragedy by placing intricacies into the characters and relationships, making up for its long transitions.

    If you care to spend an evening reevaluating humanity and understanding the meaning of love and forgiveness while witnessing strong and dedicated actors, take yourself to Arizona Theatre Company’s “Fences.” The play runs until Feb. 6.

    Follow Cera Naccarato on Twitter.

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