`Fences' cast is animated, powerful

Reservoir High's production a thought-provoking look at racial injustice, civil rights

Review

December 16, 2007|By Amanda Ogorzalek | Amanda Ogorzalek,Special to the Sun

Nothing but silence and black stillness fills the stage. Lights slowly fade up on the front door of a shabby household, an upper balcony and a clothesline. Two striking men enter discussing the day's work. So begins Reservoir High School's production of August Wilson's Fences.

Fences opened on Broadway in 1985 and ran for 526 performances, winning a number of awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for best play. The plot centers on the life of Troy Maxson, an outspoken African-American, and his family who live in Pittsburgh during the late 1950s. Referencing a few of the historical events of the time period, the play focuses on the emotional and inner aspects of the Maxson family and their surroundings.

The intimate cast of seven actors encouraged personal connections and relationships among the characters as well as the audience. Every cast member contributed to the performance with high energy, distinct characteristics and a full understanding of the situations at hand.

Powerful, forthright and, at times, quite animated, Christopher Dews portrayed Troy Maxson. He commanded the stage with authority and never wasted a line in his several lengthy monologues. His wife, Rose, played by Lydia White, presented a wise, caring and motherly figure who added a touch of well-placed humor when needed. The couple conveyed the joy and sensitivity of an 18-year marriage with compassion and veracity.

Alec Walker and Moses Jaia created the divergent duo of the Maxson sons, Cory and Lyons, respectively. Walker displayed the roughness and tension of a high school football player while Jaia retained a less intense, composed, business persona. In a standout performance, Randon Wilkerson, played the challenging role of Troy's brother, Gabriel, home from World War II with severe head trauma. He demonstrated the physical and mental effects of his injury exceptionally well with twitchy movements and sharp facial expressions.

The technical aspects of the show were kept to a minimum -- no microphones, simple lighting and a low-key set. That kept the focus on the characters and let the story shine through.

Reservoir High School did an outstanding job of creating a thought-provoking and realistic production, with themes commenting on racial injustice, the civil rights era and what it sometimes takes to be all one can be. Rose put it best: "You can't be nobody but who you are."

Amanda Ogorzalek, a student at River Hill High School, reviewed "Fences" for the Cappies of Baltimore, a program in which students review high school productions under the direction of their teachers and vote on awards for outstanding performances.

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