BWW Review: FENCES Charges In at the Pollard Theatre
The Pollard Theatre Company continues their 30th Anniversary season with August Wilson's FENCES. The Pollard production opens on the heels of the Oscar-nominated film adaptation starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Comparisons to the current movie are inevitable, but Pollard's production holds its own thanks to sound performances from the lead performers.
Artistic Director and Resident Company Member W. Jerome Stevenson tackles the paramount role of Troy Maxson. Stevenson offers a varied and bombastic interpretation of Troy, quite different than the portrayals we've seen from James Earl Jones and Denzel Washington-and that is fully meant as a compliment. Stevenson puts his own unique stamp on the role: his Troy barrels through life like a bulldozer, leaving the remnants of his destructive choices in his wake.
Bethanie James as Troy's wife Rose, though perhaps a bit young to play the mother of a military officer, ultimately proves herself as a worthy partner to Stevenson's Troy. She brings a steady sweetness to Rose; in the beginning, I wondered if her perpetual smile was always an appropriate response to the insults thrown at her from her husband, but as the play continued I was able to see her cheery facade fade away as the realities of her husband's choices began to sink in, ultimately empowering Rose to develop into a woman ahead of her time.
Guest Director Akin Babatunde keeps the production brisk, often at a breakneck speed. While I absolutely prefer a quick pace to a show that drags, it took some aural adjustment to catch up for the first few minutes. But Babatunde ensures most of his performers stay true to the period of the setting, while keeping the emotional anchors of Wilson's script intact and fully realized.
The Pollard keeps up their reputation of offering culturally relevant, quality theatre to a community where many would tend to play it safe. They challenge audiences to broaden their horizons and experience stories that might not always feel comfortable, but are ultimately worthy of telling-expounding the complexities of humanity and the valuable lessons to learn. August Wilson's FENCES is masterpiece of writing, creating a community of flawed-yet-engaging characters who ultimately lead us, the audience, to realize our own shortcomings and inspire us to mature as best we know how. The Pollard's production provides an opportunity to experience Mr. Wilson's treasure in person, with all the electricity only live theatre can provide.
FENCES runs February 10th - March 4th, 2017 at the Pollard Theatre. For tickets, call 405-282-2800 or CLICK HERE to purchase online.
By August Wilson; presented by The Pollard Theatre Company; directed by Akin Babatunde; lighting design by Michael Long; sound design by Jared Blount; scenic design by James A. Hughes; props design by Timothy Steward; costume design by Michael James; production stage manager, Jared Blount.