Attention must be paid

With his ten-work, ten-decade Pittsburgh play cycle, the late August Wilson set out to produce an African American epic. In Fences—his Pulitzer Prize-winning drama set in the 1950s, now at Court Theatre in a production directed by Ron O. J. Parson—the heroic nature of Wilson’s protagonist is clear from the moment he comes on stage. Troy Maxson is a big man, fenced in by racial prejudice.

Like Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman, Troy Maxson has two sons and a long-suffering wife. Unlike Loman, however, Troy—a Negro League baseball star who still wonders what might have been—does not encourage his younger son’s interest in football or his older son’s interest in music. His own dreams deferred, he has trouble believing in theirs. Late in the game he takes one last swing at happiness, entering into an affair that leaves him with a daughter but costs him his wife.

Yet the somber trajectory of Wilson’s plot is shot through with humor, forgiveness, and heroic triumph.

Fences runs through February 12. On Thursday, February 2, U of C English professor David Bevington leads a post-performance discussion.


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Photos (left to right): Every name tells a story: Troy Maxon (A. C. Smith) spins a yarn to his good friend Bono (John Steven Crowley). Jacqueline Smith plays Rose, Troy’s loyal, strong-willed wife. Victor J. Cole is Troy’s brother, Gabriel—wounded in WW II, he thinks he is God’s angel.

Photos by Michael Brosilow.

February 1, 2006