Category Archive for: ‘Flora Lynn Isaacson’

Triumphant Trio Scores in Fences at MTC

Margo Hall as Rose and Carl Lumbly as Troy in Fences at MTC. Photo by Ed Smith.

 Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5 stars)

Bay Area veteran actors Carl Lumbly, Margo Hall and Steven Anthony Jones give moving performances in Fences by August Wilson and brilliantly directed by Derrick Sanders.

Fences is a 1983 play by American playwright August Wilson set in 1957 in the yard of the Maxson’s home in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Fences is the sixth in Wilson’s ten-part “Pittsburgh Cycle.”  Like all of the Pittsburgh plays, Fences explores the evolving African-American experience and examines race relations among other themes.  This play won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 1987 Tony Award for Best Play.

The focus of Wilson’s attention in Fences  is Troy Maxson (Carl Lumbly), a 53-year-old head of household who struggles with providing for his family.  Troy was a great baseball player in his younger years but then spent time in prison for an accidental murder he committed during a robbery.  Because the color barrier had not yet been broken in Major League baseball, Troy was unable to make much money or save for the future.  He now lives a menial, though respectable life of trash collecting, remarkably crossing the race barrier and becoming a driver instead of just a barrel lifter.  He lives with his wife Rose (Margo Hall), his son Cory (Eddie Ray Jackson) and Troy’s younger brother Gabriel (Adrian Roberts)—an ex-soldier.  Lyons (Tyee Tilghman) is Troy’s son from a previous marriage and lives outside the home.  Jim Bono (Steven Anthony Jones) is Troy’s best friend who has recently moved out and rented a room elsewhere but is still in the neighborhood.  Makaelah Bashir injects a possible ray of future hope in her role asTroy’s illegitimate daughter, Raynell.

Derrick Sanders stages Fences with excellent attention to realistic detail and evokes solid performances from his very talented cast.  The fence referred to in the title is revealed in the final set of the play.  It is not immediately known why Troy wants to build it, but a monologue in the second act shows how he wants to keep the Grim Reaper away.  Rose also wanted to build the fence and forced her husband to start it as a means of securing what was her own—keeping what belonged inside in and what should stay outside, out.

Fences plays at Marin Theatre Company April 10-May 11, 2014 with performances Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. Matinee performances will be held at 2 p.m. on Sundays and also Thursday April 24 and Saturday, May 3 and 10.  Performances are held at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley.  For tickets, call the box office at 415-388-5208 or go online at

Coming up next at MTC will be the West Coast Premiere of Failure:  A Love Story by Philip Dawkins and directed by Jasson Minadakis, June 5-June 29, 2014.

Flora Lynn Isaacson