Tuesday, February 16, 2016

reviews - FENCES - Arizona Theatre Company

David Alan Anderson, Kim Staunton, and Edgar Sanchez
Photo by Tim Fuller
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through February 28th.

"...It’s 1957. Fifty-three year-old garbage collector Troy Maxson (David Alan Anderson) has always had...aspirations of playing ball, but, as with many unfulfilled elements in Troy’s often self-inflicted, embattled life, it never materialized. In a powerful new Arizona Theatre Company production of August Wilson’s celebrated drama Fences at Herberger Center directed by Lou Bellamy, Troy believes he knows why, and no one can tell him any different....When Troy’s dedicated wife, Rose (Kim Staunton) asks, “Why don’t you admit you were too old to play ball?” a hole is temporarily punctured in Troy’s bubble, the one in which he continually surrounds himself. ...But with those stories and reminisces often comes anger and resentment... a play that grips from those opening moments and never lets go...with a second half where the audience is stunned into silence more than once...made all the more powerful when delivered by such an able and dedicated cast as the one ATC has assembled here...Anderson’s Troy is a genuine force of nature. You may not like him – there’s not much you can like – but you can never turn away....“The world is changing around you and you can’t even see it,” declares Rose, and that’s the center of all the problems. Not only can Troy rarely see the reality of his life, he refuses to, blocking any and all reasonable advice and believing entirely in himself and what his heart tells him is right, but when those beliefs come from a source so ill-informed, what his says, the decisions he makes and the actions he takes will always be wrong, and it’s not just Troy but everyone around him that becomes affected. ...I’m betting you won’t see a better and more convincing ensemble in a valley production this year as you will in ATC’s Fences..." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"August Wilson's Fences, part of his 10-play cycle on African-American life in the 20th century, won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award that year for Best Play. It is a stellar achievement in playwriting and Arizona Theatre Company presents an equally stellar production, with an incredible cast, sublime creative elements, and spot-on direction. It is simply not to be missed....one of the best nights I've had in the theatre in a very long time. Fences is set in the late 1950s in Pittsburgh where garbage man Troy Maxson appears to finally have everything in his life in order. He has a loving, caring wife, Rose, and a steady job, plus a house that is his own. But everything isn't as solid as it seems. The impact of shattered hopes and dreams and the resentment those things can bring plus a heavy dose of betrayal are right around the corner. ..Wilson's exceptional, evocative, and thought-provoking drama. ..Wilson created characters and situations that anyone who has ever experienced some form of dysfunctional family dynamics can identify with, regardless of race. ...The ATC cast couldn't be better. As Troy, David Alan Anderson is giving a fearless, fearsome, and powerful portrayal, with as many nuances as the character has. ..Kim Staunton's Rose is steadfast and warm. ..superb portrayal of a woman with a fierce sense of herself and sheer will and determination. ...James T. Alfred is Lyons, Troy's eldest son from his first marriage, and Edgar Sanchez is Cory. Both have a natural style in their line delivery and in ensuring that the changes their characters go through as the events of the play unfold are realistic...Terry Bellamy is exceptional as Troy's brother Gabriel, who suffered a brain injury in World War II and actually believes that he's the Angel Gabriel. Gabriel is the heart of the play and Bellamy's portrayal is heartbreaking, with his final scene a moment of pure beauty...Director Lou Bellamy does an exceptional job in ensuring the pressures and problems that the characters face are portrayed realistically. ..The creative elements are extraordinary, with Vicki Smith's set design realistically portraying the back porch and entire two-story facade of Troy and Rose's house...With an anti-hero at its center, the beauty of Fences, and this production, is that it never attempts to make you truly like the character of Troy. Yet, even though the main character is ultimately unlikable, Wilson's play shows how compassion, acceptance, forgiveness, the realization of lost hopes and dreams, and the loving bond of family can ultimately become a celebration of life. This production of this American classic is captivating, engaging and first rate."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"Phoenix rarely sees a powerful drama with the stature of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Fences.”  Couple the insightful play that is part of Wilson’s telling “Pittsburgh Cycle” of scripts with an exemplary Arizona Theatre Company production and you have one of the finest plays to ever be presented here.  The exhausting but gripping play spans almost three hours as it keeps audiences fascinated as a gifted cast create each character with revealing depth.  Directed brilliantly by Lou Bellamy, “Fences,” like all Wilson’s dramas, looks at the changing African-American experience during the 20th century....Bellamy’s taut and gripping staging adds to the reality of the Wilson’s magnificent play.  The production is visually enhanced by a stunning setting that tells audiences about the family they are about to meet as they enter the theater before the play begins. ...Stunning is David Alan Anderson’s Troy as he masterfully exposes Troy’s myriad of emotions and stubborn attitudes.  While you often hate Troy and the terrible things he’s done, Anderson makes you also understand Troy’s many frustrations.  Kim Staunton creates a winning Rose, a woman who learns of her husband’s unfaithfulness after she’s devoted herself to Troy as she ignores her own needs that Troy fails to supply. ..ATC must be sincerely thanked for bringing such a brilliant production of August Wilson’s compelling “Fences” to Phoenix." --Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

"August Wilson's Pulitzer-winning "Fences" presented by Arizona Theatre Company...is the toughest kind of story to tell. Just the simple image of a wooden barrier, told of by simple folks, nonetheless exposed poignantly a story about invisible demons and fenced off isolation. At each turn, the audience became increasingly aware that loathing resentment, however well concealed, can create an insurmountable barricade....Vicky Smith's beautifully dilapidated and sparsely appointed house, along with a yard strewn with lumber and rusty tools, played into a metaphor of a worn and broken structure struggling to function by the unlikely solution of a newly picketed perimeter....The story's central conflict and character are unlikable....The visible action revolves primarily around the unremarkable task of sawing and hammering together a fence, a sort of father-son project in theory. Troy Maxon (David Alan Anderson), said father and main character, is an embittered garbage collector of the 1950s who was denied his deserved pro baseball career in the days before Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier...Troy, certainly betrayed and destroyed the most fragile and promising parts of people closest to him last night. Most notably, his faithful wife Rose (Kim Staunton) and their sons, musician Lyons (James T. Alfred) and promising athlete Cory (Edgar Sanchez), suffered. And it was painful to watch the play deconstruct. The precious few able to elude Troy's most damaging assaults were his war-damaged brother Gabe (Terry Bellamy), his best friend Bono (Marcus Naylor) and a sweetly innocent little girl, Raynell (Simeeyah Grace Baker).
...Suffice to note that sensitive direction and immersive acting carried the story's heft with awing effect. All those subtle parts in need of deciphering--the creative team's ingenuity and cast's efforts--succeeded under Wilson's masterful command of simple language and dialect that oozed layers of meaning from every scene. Maybe that's what's behind the Pulitzer and Tony notoriety....The message the audience received was about the lonely desperation that seeped in and affected the people the afflicted person touched. That fence didn't just keep bottled up an individual's anger and pain. It imprisoned the people that surrounded and loved most the victim. Perhaps then, that was the powerful healing balm of ATC's "Fences." Though we couldn't forgive the trespasses, we could forgive that a human was flawed--and that he was hurting--because we too, are human. Through the performance at Herberger Theater we were viscerally touched by the destruction wrought by the arduous construction of fences.  -Jennifer Haaland, Examiner.com (click here to read the complete review)

" “Fences” is August Wilson’s “Death of a Salesman.”..it’s about fathers and sons, and the limits of the American dream. ...“Fences” also benefits from the late playwright’s particular gifts for earthy poetry, written in vibrant Black vernacular, and for comedic notes that make even a disturbing drama a thrill to watch...that’s exactly what is on display in Arizona Theatre Company’s current production, starting ..Director Lou Bellamy conjures the plays humor and poignancy with the skill and precision of a great orchestra conductor...A pitch-perfect rendition of a bona-fide masterpiece that every theater lover should experience." Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

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