Encore Theatre stages excellent production of August Wilson's 'Fences'

March 26, 1992|By Winifred Walsh | Winifred Walsh,Contributing Writer

An outstanding production of August Wilson's searing drama, TC Fences," is being staged by the Encore Theatre, Maryland's only black dinner theater, at its new location in the Forest Park Senior Center Complex weekends through April 5.

Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning work, set in the '50s, is concerned with the barriers raised by racial prejudice and destructive family conflicts.

As in his other eloquent works, Wilson's human tragedies are discomfortingly universal.

What distinguishes this local production is the superb performance of Michael Kane, who plays the complex lead role of a struggling garbage man, Troy Maxson.

Kane is given admirable support from Sandra Meekins, who turns in a heartfelt performance as Troy's loyal and long-suffering wife, Rose.

A liar, wayward husband, abusive parent and spoiler of dreams, Troy is also am embittered former star (he claims) of the Negro Baseball League. He vehemently claims racial prejudice kept him from success in the major leagues.

But rationalization is a way of life with Troy. His strong, rigid views of life and death, twisted by his own adverse trials, are all couched in metaphoric baseball jargon.

Troy is not a particularly nice man. He has cheated his brother and is sleeping with another woman. But the fascination of his character lies in Troy's enormous appetite for life.

Although obsessed with the challenge of death, he has a wonderful instinct for survival that has enabled him to overcome an abusive childhood, a term in jail and separation from his first wife and son.

Married for a second time to selfless, devoted Rose, he now has a another son, 17-year-old Cory, who is an intelligent and sweet young man with an excellent chance to be recruited for a college football team. But Troy slams the door to this golden opportunity hard in Cory's face and forces him out of the house.

Troy secretly fears his son will succeed where he did not and acts arbitrarily to justify his own failures and his own father's existence.

Donald Russell Owens has done a competent job of directing this powerful piece. The pace is good, but the blocking is sometimes stagnant. The actors are often turned upstage away from the audience and consequently their lines are lost. Stronger vocal projection is needed by all the minor characters.

Kane is excellent at conveying Troy's bitterness and hostility but we should see more of the hurt beneath his armor of self-protection.

In the poignant role of Gabriel, Troy's brother who is suffering from a World War II head injury, Jefferson A. Russell has moments, but his is mostly a surface performance.

Eric Burton is a likable, earnest Cory and Keith L. Banks convinces as Troy's irresponsible son, Lyons. In the role of Bono, Troy's work buddy, Phillip White mumbles his lines so they are barely comprehensible.

Ain Tripps, Shauna Henson and Yasmime Gordon are performing alternate weekends in the role of the young girl, Raynell.

*

A fairly entertaining production of Neil Simon's '60s comedy, "Come Blow Your Horn," is on stage at the Harbour Theatre through Sunday.

Set in a Manhattan bachelor pad, the play depicts the plights of two philandering sons and their disapproving, ill-tempered father.

Directed by Rick Hammontree, the play often fails to incorporate the necessary timing and execution of Simon's hilarious lines.

Jonathan Claibourne's meek demeanor seems out of place for the role of Allan, the womanizing brother. Terry Curry is sincere but rather wooden as the younger sibling.

Bob Bayer is too mild in the role of the glowering, thunderous parent. Sharon Rosen is convincing but underplays her role as the over-protective Jewish mother. Jamise Lettau is pleasant as Allan's true love.

What saves this show is the very professional, bubbly, bouncy and funny performance of Malynda Votaw as the rich, dumb blond who lives upstairs.

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