This week I saw "Fences" at the Huntington, one of August Wilson's plays from the Pittsburgh cycle. Wilson wrote 10 plays in the cycle, one from each decade, depicting the lives of black folks in 10 different decades. "Fences" is set in 1957. Troy Maxson, who ran away from an abusive father who was trapped in a life not of his own making, could have been a baseball player. And not just any baseball player, but a baseball star. He didn't get that chance, because as his friend Bono tells him, he was just too early. Troy, frustrated and angry at the injustice of it, replies, "There ought not never have been no time called too early!’’
The role of Troy, originated on stage by James Earl Jones, was filled ably by John Beasley. His performance is filled with power, and restraint, and anger, and conflict. His voice fills the theater, his tenderness and love for his wife Rose is palpable, and his anger consumes him. Rose is played by Crystal Fox, and she is simply amazing. Loving, supportive, firm, she's wise and tough and playful. The casting and direction is awesome, even the set design was beautifully done. All the action takes place in a dusty backyard space - the house and the streets beyond are out of our sight. The world beyond doesn't make its way into this space.
The performances were magnificent - I can't recommend this play highly enough. August Wilson was a powerful, poetic playwright, and this cast do him proud. It's a tense, emotional ride, with heavy doses of humanity thrown in - some laughter, family and friendship as well.