"Good fences make good neighbors," said the great American poet, Robert Frost, but sometimes it's an uneasy peace between what they keep in and what they keep out. In August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize winning drama, Fences, they demarcate the barrier between Troy Maxon, an ex-con and former Negro Leagues baseball standout, and his family, friends, and enemies, including Death itself.
This groundbreaking cooperative production between two of Denver's finest theatre companies—Shadow Theatre Company and Curious Theatre Company—is a revisitation of the decade of the '50's in Wilson's monumental series of ten plays, each of which represents a decade of the black experience in America in the 20th Century. As in most of his series, Fences is set in the hill section of Pittsburgh, where Wilson grew up.
Wilson's approach to the struggle of African-Americans in a racist society is focused on the day-to-day trials of ordinary people. In this production, directed by Chip Walton, this slice-of-life approach begins with a magnificent set designed by Dan Guyette. The scale and detail of this replication of lower middle class life underscores the realism of the story at every turn.
Like so many African-Americans, Troy Maxon's life has been one of constant denial and deprivation. As the centerpiece of this production, Jeffrey Nickelson's portrayal is a marvel of contradictions. Weary to the bone from a lifetime of hard labor, his Maxon manages to uphold his breadwinning responsibilities to his family all the while ruling them with his seething anger.
Adrienne Martin-Fullwood, as Maxon's empathetic yet strong wife, Rose, exudes the emotional and spiritual strength that is at the heart of the African-American community, thus fully delivering the hopeful message at the center of this play.
Dwayne Carrington's Bono, Maxon's best friend, is so perfectly in tune with the jovial, hard working and accepting nature of this archetype from the neighborhood, from his pork pie hat and patois down to his infectious laugh and every facial expression, that we know we've met him a thousand times.
Maxon's oldest son, Lyons, an aspiring jazzman, is a smooth talking cool headed brother in the hands of Cajardo Lindsey, who can put the soft touch on his pop for a sawbuck or two every week and still get away with it at the age of thirty-four.
David Pickney, as Cory, the live at home adolescent son, bears the brunt of Maxon's limited expectations and failed dreams. Pickney deftly mixes a youthful exuberance with a growing bitterness and resentment.
Hugo Jon Sayles is nothing short of phenomenal as Maxon's war-injured mentally challenged brother Gabriel, whose every appearance lights up the stage with his simple, heartwarming innocence and religious fervor.
Director Walton, assisted by Vince Robinson, has assembled a fine ensemble that powerfully fulfills the playwright's gritty vision. The Curious Theatre Company and Shadow Theatre Company joint production of August Wilson's Fences runs through June 9th at the Acoma Center. 303-623-0524.