Theater Review: Take the crookeds with the straights

As the fence gets built, the family’s story unfolds.

A well-intentioned, but bitter father chains his family to a pragmatic, realist lifestyle after his youngest son gets recruited to play college football.

A player in the Negro-League turned garbage collector, and a devoted housewife of 18 years, share the excruciatingly slow march of progress for black families in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Fences.”

August Wilson, famous for his writings about the black experience, focuses heavily on the concepts of responsibility, familial bonds, and the futile fight with death. The play has been turned into a Hollywood movie, set to be released Christmas Day, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.

Troy comes home from work with his long-time friend Bono, reminiscing about his days as a baseball player, and runs into his firstborn son, Lyons. Troy isn’t surprised, as the only time he gets a visit from his oldest child is on Friday, payday. When Rose encourages Troy to loan him cash, he makes a note that he doesn’t expect to see the money ever again. As all this goes transpires, Troy’s brother Gabe stops by to sell fresh fruit. Gabe is a wounded war veteran, who had surgery, leaving him with a metal plate in his skull. Since the war, Gabe has heard voices in the form of religious imagery, with frequent talks of hellhounds and St. Peter holding open the gates of heaven.    

The stage gives a realistic sense of a typical poor neighborhood in a North American industrial city, and easily transports the audience back to the 1950s.

We see Lester Purry, as Troy, brilliantly portray one man’s internal conflict between the responsibility that’s required from a family man and youthful idealism in the form of an affair with another woman. His performance is sure to give Denzel Washington a run for his money.

Kevin Linell perfectly embodies the fast-talking, quick-witted nature of Troy’s first son, Lyons. The swagger in his step and his well-rehearsed bravado is a major key in this character’s believability.

Victoria Renee’ Hubbard wonderfully paints the picture of a selflessly giving mother and a completely devoted wife who has repeatedly deferred her hopes and dreams and has veered away from temptation.  

Stan McDowell emits the calm, cool and collected persona expected of a family man who seemingly has it all figured out. It’s always difficult to see a close friend head down a bad road, and the pain expressed by McDowell as Bono, exceptionally evokes the concern shown for Troy.   

Cliff Keith Ingram, as Gabriel, displays impeccable skill playing a character with debilitating PTSD. His earnest performance blurs the lines of our country’s treatment of veterans both past and present.

Jean Hyppolite, as Cory, gave an astounding performance and was integral in relaying the insanely damaged father-son relationship this play is centered around.      

Kiarra Gabrielle Beasley, as Raynell, cemented one of the minor themes, children as seeds. Her ability to capture the cautious wonderment that comes when meeting a long lost relative is quite a feat for this eight-year-old.   

“Fences” runs through Dec. 11, at the Pierce College Performing Arts Mainstage. Tickets are availble through