Front Row Reviews


“Fences” Spotlights 1950’s Racism  

Photo: Mark Anthony (Cory), Val Sinckler (Rose), and Keene Hudson (Troy). Photos: Eric Chazankin

6th Street Playhouse presents a captivating production of August Wilson’s renowned play, “Fences,” that skillfully captures the emotional landscape of the African-American experience in the 1950s.

Set in 1957, the narrative revolves around the 53-year-old, edgy Troy Maxson (Keen Hudson), a man burdened with constant emotional turmoil and unresolved resentments. He laments his loss of a promising career as a major ballplayer in the Negro leagues, due to the rampant racism in organized sports and society at large.

 Aissa Simbulan’s perfectly unremarkable Pittsburgh porch is surrounded by a partially constructed fence, enclosing a small yard. A baseball hangs from a lone tree by a rope on one side, and a leaning wooden bat rests against a porch railing. A wooden horse and loose boards are piled on part of the yard.

Troy, employed as a garbage collector, is married to the patient and devoted Rose, (dynamic Val Sinckle), a woman who has no problem speaking her mind, like, “Move out the way so I can see my man.” Rose, like most women of the era, conceals part of her true self and desires as she toils for her family. Sinckler excels in her role, being able to use a raised eyebrow and steely glare to express what she wishes to convey.

Rose’s breathtaking colorful period costumes, by Aja Gianola-Norris, are stand outs.

The play unveils Troy’s tumultuous life story, recounting humble beginnings in the slums, and a 15-year prison sentence. Stealing his mentally-ill, religious brother Gabriel’s, (expertly portrayed by Jim Frankie Banks,) disability check, he secures a home loan.

Troy is unpredictable, with the ability to shift moods as swiftly as a chameleon changes its stripes. These moods can oscillate between affection and anger with his family. In a clash with his son Cory, (versatile Mark Anthony) the tension arises as Cory, being scouted for college football, requires Troy’s signature on a permission slip. However, Troy insists on Cory working at an A&P food store, cautioning, “A colored guy’s gotta be twice as good before he gets on the team.” Simultaneously, Troy generously hands ten dollars to his lazy older son, the aspiring musician Lyons, (smooth-talking De Sean Moore).

Hudson, with a commanding presence, carries the weight of the play. However, at times, the intensity of his emotional delivery wavers.  He effectively conveys the repressed anger of a man who has endured degradation by a white-centered world.

Troy’s foremost wish is to witness the completion of the half-built fence surrounding his house, seeking emotional stability. His prison pal, the laid-back Bono,  (amiable Nicholas Augusta) stands as a stabilizing force throughout the play. Bono endeavors to steer Troy towards recognizing the value of what he already possesses. As each scene unfolds, the sections of the fence gradually come together with Bono’s assistance.

As the last fence section is attached, Troy confronts Rose with a confession, a final explosive revelation.

August Wilson’s character-driven play delves deep into the core of African-American culture, spirituality, and uncertainty. Director Jourdan Oliver-Verde skillfully brings these complex dynamics to life on stage, fine-tuning the actor’s delivery and movements to heighten the intense internal conflicts of the characters.

The chosen songs throughout, like “Be a Fence All Around Me,” by Soul Stirrers are spot on, as well as the eerie sounds effects of the devils.

See “Fences” at 6th Street Playhouse, a powerful reminder of the effects on individuals when their culture is fenced in by racism.

“Fences” by August Wilson, directed by Jourdan Oliver-Verde, Costumes by Aja Gianola-Norris, Sound Designer, Ben Roots, at 6th Street Playhouse, Monroe Stage, Santa Rosa, California, to Feb 4, 2024 Cast: Mark Anthony, Nicholas Augusta, Jim Frankie Banks, Keen Hudson, De Sean Moore, Val Sinckler,Eden Kuteesa Oland, and Nadia Hill.