BWW Reviews: Denver Center's FENCES - Engaging Ensemble!
The Denver Center Theater Company presents August Wilson's classic FENCES playing now through October 14th at the Space Theater. Troy Maxson, a star baseball player whose career was blunted by the racism prevalent in pre-Jackie Robinson America, now supports his family as a sanitation worker. Feeling his world rapidly changing, Troy builds a fence to protect what is familiar and hold off what threatens. Both muscular and lyrical, this August Wilson blockbuster, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and two Tony Awards, shows what can happen when a strong man is robbed of his dreams.
This is very much a character driven play and this talented cast handled each of their unique roles with adoring respect for August Wilson, which was reflected onstage in their interactions with each other as a family. Also, the majority of this cast are making their debut at the Denver Center and it is so encouraging to see this amazing theater pull in such wonderful and diverse talent. David Alan Anderson was sensational and so charismatic in his Denver Center debut as the disillusioned and bitter father,Troy. He gave this character such strength while also giving Troy such a range of emotions. From his playful, chummy side with Boo to his flirtatious side with Rose; from his angry side at his son Cory to his tender, compassionate side with Gabriel and his daughter, Mr. Anderson developed this into an enthralling performance. Marcus Naylor as his best friend, Jim Bono was also quite good and I loved seeing his tender side when speaking about his family and the admiration for Troy's family. Their friendship was quite humorous and fun and both of the actors seemed very comfortable together. James T. Alfred as Troy's son, Lyons was one smooth talker and very charming. Jerome Preston Bates as Gabriel had one of the best performances of the night. His concentration and passion that he put into this challenging role captured everyones hearts and he commandeered that stage with every entrance to the delight of the audience. Seriously, how could you not love this character and the fantastic performance of Mr. Bates! His final moving scene had us all in tears cause we all felt his anguish. Calvin Dutton really thought the role of Troy's son Cory through and it was amazing to watch his transformation from a youth and a ball of energy into the man that he would become. His last speech when he let out all of the bitterness about his father was just fantastic and heartbreaking. From his moments to the inflection of his voice, it was truly amazing. Denver Center favorite Kim Staunton returns to a role near and dear to her heart - Rose. Her understanding of one of August Wilson's strongest female roles was absolutely mesmerizing to watch and she made Rose sassy and fun. She brought a smile to you face with her laughter and completely had you in tears when she was betrayed. Her speeches upon news of the adultery, the shock of caring for a illegitimate daughter and consoling her son after the death of Troy were each just breathtaking to witness. Her passionate and heartfelt performance is something to behold and she is truly a master class actress.
This set by designer Vicki Smith was absolutely wonderful. I love that the two-story facade looked lived in, showing signs of wear and tear from the prospective of the backyard. Thanks to small and thoughtful details, it also looked so inviting and had its own charm. There was also a lot of thought put into the lighting by designer Don Darnutzer which not only illuminating the backyard, gave foreboding of death and offerings of hope at the end, but also gave the inside of the house the warmth it needed. I also loved the blues and gospel music that filled the air thanks to sound designer Jason Ducat. The costume design by David Kay Mickelsen gave this show that realistic working class feel that it needed. I must also commend dialect and vocal coaching by Kathryn G. Maes, Ph.D, who gave the characters that urban feel that made them relatable. This is quite an impressive Denver Center debut for director Lou Bellamy and he made this show more a glimpse into their lives instead of a formal play, which I adored. On an interesting note - Bellamy is founder and Artistic Director of Penumbra Theatre located in Minnesota, which has produced 35 world premieres, including August Wilson’s first professional production and more of Wilson’s plays than any theater in the world. His intimate and knowledgeable background into this great man's work was truly reflected in this wonderful production. This was a wonderful homage to this great playwright!
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