Review By: Janel Spiegel
Review: August Wilson’s Fences
Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival 2022
July 27- August 7, 2022
2755 Station Avenue
Center Valley, PA 18034
“Set in 1950s Pittsburgh against the backdrop of a rapidly changing America, August Wilson’s groundbreaking Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning drama depicts the yearnings and struggles of the Maxson family. Troy Maxson, a former home run king of the Negro baseball leagues now supports his family as a garbage collector, and builds fences around a world he has battled his entire life. An epic work of stunning poetry by a Pennsylvania native, Fences has been hailed by critics as “a blockbuster piece of theater” and “the strongest, most passionate American dramatic writing since Tennessee Williams.” A timeless story of fathers and sons, husbands and wives, dreams and realities, Fences is a true American classic. Contains some adult subject matter and strong language. Ages 13+”
August Wilson… I want to write an entire article about this gentleman. August Wilson’s FENCES. August Wilson was an American playwright. He wrote powerful words, powerful plays, powerful stories.
The last play I saw Tony Todd in was How I Learned What I Learned by August Wilson. Fences is a Pulitzer Prize winning play. DeSales University hosts the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s main stage belongs to August Wilson’s Fences, starring Tony Todd (Troy), llan Annum (Raynell), Brandon Edward Burton (Lyons), Brian D. Coats (Gabriel), Tyler Fauntleroy (Cory), Ella Joyce (Rose), Shane Taylor (Bono). The understudies are: Quinton Cockrell (Troy, Bono, Gabe), Ontoaria Kim Wilson (Rose), and Kayce Rhylee-Cherise Rawls (Raynell).
It was a sold-out show with an enthusiastic audience. The stage looked incredible. They built a home and as the play went on, the fence was being built by Troy played beyond brilliantly by Tony Todd. Tony Todd is a force of nature on a stage, his presence is so massive, he commands the attention of everyone in the room. Do you ever just watch something and you become immersed in it. I’ve seen a fair number of plays including seeing Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice. This was a force of nature.
August Wilson touched on real life; subjects’ people can relate to. He tugged more than just heart strings, he grabs your soul, and takes you on a ride you’ll never forget. This play was powerful, it was a storm within a quiet calmness with Tony Todd’s powerful stage presence, we got to see the intense, funny, witty, smart, beautiful Ella Joyce portraying Rose, Troy’s wife. Behind every man is a strong woman. Well Ella Joyce is one strong woman. She COMMANDED the stage, she brought every emotion to fruition, she captivated and took over as she spoke from her heart and soul.
I had goosebumps, I felt sad, happy, I laughed, I cried. I felt so many different emotions. The music also got to me, I felt that as soon as “Jesus Be A Fence Around Me” started playing, my heart just smiled and cried at the same time. It was POWERFUL. Muddy Waters “Mannish Boy” played, and more amazing music. Tony Todd winds up singing some of “The Old Blue Song.” The music adds so much.
I was able to meet some wonderful people, kind, wise people with words of wisdom. Tony Todd said, they only had “two weeks of rehearsal.” You would never know because they performed as if they had performed this play a million times before. Brian D. Coats portrayed Uncle Gabriel. Brian D. Coats was beyond incredible. It was as if he was sent here from heaven. He delivered his lines with passion and power. The ending is a MUST-SEE. The entire play is a MUST-SEE. Brian plays Uncle Gabe, Troy’s brother. He is going through a lot, and the spiritual message in this play is so meaningful. You never know what someone is going through.
The knowledge, the wisdom, the kindness, the compassion, the love, empathy, sorrow, pain, hurt, tragedy, building, and nurturing all embody this play, and this cast. I met a gentleman named Buck; he was very kind. Thank you to everyone that I met and thank you to the cast for taking the time to say hello, and Ella Joyce is a gift. She is a gift to theatre, the acting world, the world in general. Her soul and spirit echoed over the stage and through the building.
Tyler Fauntleroy who portrayed Cory, Trop and Rose’s son delivered such a powerful performance. He will have a long career ahead of him. I’ve never seen a play where I’ve believed every line from the core. I had goosebumps, I teared up, I cried, I fell in love with these characters. I felt the loss as I don’t want to give away spoilers but it’s a powerful performance. You learn a lot in life. Life isn’t easy. Life is difficult, it will throw a lot at you. You must get up and keep going. Brandon Edward Burton who portrayed Lyons was amazing. He gave his all, and he matched Tony Todd’s intensity, he went head on with Brian D. Coats and Shane Taylor, giving a performance of a lifetime.
Shane Taylor who portrayed Bono, Troy’s friend and the gentleman he worked with. Shane was funny, charismatic, he was the light of the play. He questioned Troy. He challenged Troy, he challenged Tony Todd, and that’s quite difficult to do. Tony Todd is one of a kind. He could read a phone book, he could read Tweets, and it would be divine.
llan Annum who portrayed Raynell delivered one of the most impactful performances of the entire show. Her character Raynell was what was holding everything together, and bringing back some hope despite the sad situation. August Wilson’s Fences is a MUST-SEE. If you get a chance, get tickets and go see it. This cast is beyond the galaxy talented. They bring this immensely powerful story to life with so much love and soul. I can’t imagine anyone else in any of these roles. The music, the beautiful stage, the crew must have worked so hard putting everything together.
The sound, the music, the cast. It was perfection. Make sure to check out August Wilson’s Fences.
August Wilson – Playwright
Ryan Quinn -Director
Baron E. Pugh – Scenic Designer
Kendra L. Johnson – Costume Designer
Earon Chew Nealy – Hair, Wig, and Makeup Design.
Larry D. Fowler Jr. – Sound Designer
Erin Joy Swank – Stage Manager
Chiara H. Johnson- Assistant Stage Manager