GCP knocks it over the fence

Cortez Williams as "Mr. Jim Bono" and Rhonda Wilson as "Rose Maxson" in "Fences".

Lee Ferinden/Special to the Sun
Published: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 12:44 a.m.


IF YOU GO: Fences

  • WHEN: Through Feb. 9. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.
  • WHERE: Gainesville Community Playhouse, 4039 NW 16th Blvd.
  • TICKETS: $8 at Omni Books.

  • Fences," the second play in August Wilson's decade-by-decade chronicle of the African-American experience in America, packs a punch that's both dramatic and comic. Now playing at the Gainesville Community Playhouse, the play is a compelling production that crosses the line from the ravages of racial discrimination to a universal theme of family conflict. Staged with directness and an easy flow by director Kristi Eberlin, "Fences" is a moving experience.
    It is the story of a family and, most particularly, the head of that family, Troy Maxson. Troy, his wife, Rose, and their son, Cory, live in a small, somewhat dilapidated home where they are visited by Bono, Troy's closest friend; Lyons, his son by a previous marriage; and Gabriel, his delusional brother, who suffered a head injury in the war.
    The "fences" of the title refer to an ongoing project around the Maxson home. Does Troy build fences to keep out the unknown, to close his home to death? Does Rose want the fence to keep her family in and close? The question is left for the viewer to answer.
    Troy is a man haunted by racial inequities. When he was young, he played baseball so well he would have made it in the major leagues had they been open to African-Americans. Now, at age 53, he is a garbage collector with a complaint: Why are all the "lifters" black and the truck drivers white?
    Troy's deeply held anger colors his life. He presents an exterior that's fun, alive with jokes, songs and bravado. But, underneath, he is a damaged man. He hurts the people he loves, denying his son, Cory, the opportunity to play football, cheating on the wife he loves, cheating his delusional brother. The man is a prisoner of his past, unable and unwilling to acknowledge a future different, more giving, than what he's known. He denies the love he feels for his son. He struggles with what might be called a mid-life crisis when he looks to another woman.
    Baseball and death preoccupy Troy's mind, and often he uses the sport as a metaphor for battling the grim reaper. Despite the humor of the characters, the thread of death runs throughout the play.
    Darryl C. Davis, who plays Troy, gives a performance deep in understanding the complexities of the man. One minute, he is singing about his dog, Blue. The next minute, he is tempting death with a baseball bat swung over his shoulder. Davis succeeds in being funny, passionate, angry, loving and deeply convincing.
    Rhonda Wilson as Rose is profoundly moving. Her anguished appeal to a sense of fairness that doesn't exist is rendered with poignancy and dignity.
    Cortez Willliams gives a first-rate performance as Bono, Troy's sidekick. A genial actor, Williams is totally comfortable as the in-home philosopher. Zack Taylor makes a jaunty figure of Lyons, Troy's first-born son, an easy-come-easy-go musician. Frank Edmonson in the role of the brain-damaged Gabriel, gives a gently moving performance (this role is shared with Bradley Small). As Cory, Terrance Brown, a strapping young man, effectively tests Troy's mettle. Jesika Sheffield plays Raynell, Troy's love child, with sweet innocence.
    Every aspect of GCP's "Fences" shines. It will stay with you long after the curtain has fallen.

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