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Theater Review: An Award-Winning Treatment Of August Wilson Classic

Published: February 8, 2018

RIDGEFIELD — August Wilson’s classic Fences is now in performance at Ridgefield Theater Barn.

Graced with exceptional talent under the adept direction of Katherine Ray, this three-hour-plus production moves swiftly toward its poignant and powerful conclusion.

In the urban landscape of Pittsburgh, Troy Maxon (played by Foster Evans Reese) resides in the only home he has ever really known. Bought with a government settlement to provide care for his brother Gabriel (Dan Fedrick) following a traumatic brain injury sustained in the great war, Troy struggles with guilt and emasculation, knowing that his meager paycheck could not have purchased a home for his family. A former resident of the penitentiary and disappointed would-be professional baseball contender, Troy struggles mightily against demons in the world around him as well as those deep in his soul.

Friday afternoons after work, Troy and longtime best friend Bono (Kevin Knight) find their way to the liquor store for a pint of gin as they meander their way home, regaling the old days and challenging the future.

Troy’s wife Rose (Tracey McAllister) inevitably makes her way onto the porch to weigh in on their talk and set the record straight. The humor is light, the camaraderie easy.

The Friday paydays herald a visit from Troy’s older son Lyons (Steffon Sampson), looking for some cash to get him by as he makes his way in the music scene. Troy has never seen him play.

Cory (Shelby Davis), the only child of Troy and Rose’s union, is a high school football star with a college recruiter chasing at his heels. He is a solid youth exuding earnest sincerity and drive.

Late in life, Troy fathers another child, an adorable daughter named Raynell (Dania Fedrick). Her arrival forces Rose and Troy into a searing examination of their marriage and themselves.

The two leads in this cast, Foster Evans Reese and Tracey McAllister, carry this piece with displays of wrenching raw emotion and subtle, nuanced undercurrents. They are highly skilled and captivating actors who have mined every aspect of their characters and brought them to life.

They are supported by extraordinary talent. Kevin Knight’s Bono is spot on. His character’s sense of humor, loyalty, and heartbreak are elegantly and fully rendered. He brings a broad range of talent to this role, making it look easy, which it is not.

Playing the ne’er do well first son, Steffon Sampson is smooth as silk. His voice alone sounds like jazz, yet Lyons’s angst is never far from the surface. This is a performer who cares about his character.
Playing the tragically damaged Gabriel, Mr Fedrick is nothing short of magical. His expressions, even when he is background to the action, are priceless. His performance is truly special.

Shelby Davis imbues his Cory with an innocence and purity that cry out for protection from the hurt he feels.

As the youngest of Troy’s offspring, Dania Fedrick is a delightful bundle of energy and excitement as she explores her world and people. Her curiosity and charm are captivating.

Set Designer Nick Kaye did a beautiful job of rendering a backyard in need of a completed fence in order to keep those who live and love there from getting away.

In Troy’s world, life is always analogous to baseball, a lost opportunity that haunts and agonizes him. He wants to protect his family, yet hasn’t the facility to do so without playing soul-crushing hardball. Death to Troy is a “fast ball on the outside corner.” Everyone in his world only gets three strikes.

Fences is a must see. A brilliant cast, acting their hearts out in a timeless play, is always a must see.

Performances continue weekends through February 24, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm and Sundays, February 11 and 18, at 2 pm.

Tickets are $35 for adults, and $28 for senior citizens, students, and veterans.

Due to strong language and adult themes, the play is recommended for mature audiences only.

Ridgefield Theater Barn, at 37 Halpin Lane in Ridgefield, can be reached at 203-431-9850 or through its website, ridgefieldtheaterbarn.org, for reservations and additional information.

Fences at Ridgefield review

Bono (Kevin Knight), Gabe (Dan Fedrick), Rose (Tracey McAllister), and Lyons (Steffon Sampson) share a laugh in a scene from August Wilson’s Pulitzer, Tony, and Drama Desk Award-winning Fences. The sixth of Wilson’s ten-part “The American Century Cycle” is receiving exemplary treatment in the current Ridgefield Theater Barn production.

—Paulette Layton photo

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