‘Fences’ is ‘fantastic’

Richmond Community Theatre stages August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning production

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

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ROCKINGHAM — Richmond Community Theatre director Shelly Walker asked audience members to ignore a spot of unpainted set that volunteers might not have gotten to before opening night, or to not focus on a part of the set that wasn’t quite finished.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Bruce Stanback, left, plays Troy Maxson while Tyrese Clark plays son Cory in August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Fences" Friday night at Richmond Community Theatre in downtown Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Bruce Stanback, left, plays Troy Maxson while Tyrese Clark plays son Cory in August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Fences” Friday night at Richmond Community Theatre in downtown Rockingham.

She needn’t have worried. Patrons of “Fences,” August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning portrayal of  a bitter Pittsburgh, Pa., man who is beautifully human — burdened with good intentions and devilish mistakes — was a hit among the crowd Thursday night, the first of seven shows between now and May 24.

It is only the second play featuring an all-African-American cast, Walker noted. The first was Raisin in the Sun two years ago.

“It was wonderful,” said Sharon Grov, of Rockingham. “I came in with a blank slate. It was very well put together.”

Grov said she won’t soon forget the part of Rose, played by community theater veteran Anitra Ingram. In the play, Rose doesn’t necessarily forgive husband Troy for cheating on her and having another woman’s baby, but when the woman dies in childbirth — leaving the infant girl all alone — Rose raises her as her own.

“For me, even though she was angry with him … she took the child in and raised it,” Grov said.

Ellerbe resident Mildred Williams’ had a unique perspective on the play. Her grandson, Tyrese Clark, an Ellerbe Middle School student, played aspiring college football player Cory Maxson, Troy Maxson’s son.

“I think it was great,” said Williams, noting the play had “a lot of drama … a lot of real-to-life scenes.”

The play is centered around Troy Maxson, a justifiably bitter black man in 1950s Pittsburgh where African-Americans still struggled to get a fair shake. Maxson was a former Negro Leagues baseball star, comparable to the likes of Babe Ruth and Josh Gibson.

Talking with ex-prison cellmate Jim Bono, Maxson shrugs off Jackie Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier after Maxson’s hypothetical prime, as an average player.

“Jackie Robinson wasn’t nobody,” Maxson tells Bono.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com The cast of "Fences" at Richmond Community Theatre prepare to take a bow after opening night.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
The cast of “Fences” at Richmond Community Theatre prepare to take a bow after opening night.

While Maxson continues to hold a grudge against a white world, his son, Cory, aspires to be a college football player. While in high school, Cory catches the eye of a recruiter — but his father will not allow Cory to have anything to do with it. Maxson tells the high school football coach his son has to quit the team and get a job instead.

Troy Maxson, like so many men, works hard to justify hurting his wife — sometimes physically, but mostly on an emotional level.

“As long as he feels right in my heart, then it’s okay with me,” Maxson tells Bono, played by Rockingham native Raynard House.

“What you gonna do when she finds out,” Bono inquires of Maxson.

Maxson is convinced he can keep his affair secret — that is, until he finds out his girlfriend, Albert, is expecting.

“I’m gonna be somebody’s daddy,” Maxson tells her in the front yard of their modest home, the scene for the entire play.

Rose, a faithful wife of 18 years, nearly breaks in grief.

“Why, Troy? Why? I’ve been everything a wife should be. Everything a wife could be.”

Rose asks her husband to leave his girlfriend.

“It feels good,” Troy replies regarding visits to her home without the burden of daily life such as bills and raising a family. “I can laugh. I can laugh out loud. It feels good, all the way down to my shoes. Rose, I can’t give that up.”

We won’t spoil the ending for those who have yet to see any of the remaining six shows. The play is presented again at 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and at 8 p.m. each day next Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The cast includes Bruce Stanback as Troy Maxson, Raynard House as Jim Bono, Anitra Ingram as Rose, Daniel Wall as Lyons, Melvin L. Ingram Jr. as Gabriel, Tyrese Clark as Cory, Ashlyn Lamana Davis as Raynell and Ishmael Terry as the understudy for Gabriel.

It is the debut for Wall, Clark and Davis, 7, a Fairview Heights School student in Hamlet. She captured the crowd’s adoration by playing the illegitimate child of Troy and Alberta, and Cory’s half-sister.

 

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  • Anitra

    I am enjoying this play and it has always been a play that I have wanted to perform. I am thankful to the Richmond Community Theater Board and Director Shelly Walker for having the vision to do this play in Richmond County.

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