On Oct. 2, the anniversary of playwright August Wilson’s death, his Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Fences” began a run at Ford’s Theatre in D.C.
The play, set in 1950s Pittsburgh, tells the story of a working-class Black man named Troy Maxson and his family. “Fences” is part of Wilson’s 10-play “Pittsburgh Cycle” — a series dedicated to portraying varying aspects of the Black experience.
The production is directed by Timothy Douglas, one of the foremost interpreters of Wilson’s work. Douglas is making his Ford’s debut and has directed nine of the 10 plays that chronicle 100 years of the African-American experience.
“This is August Wilson’s most powerful play,” said D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton. “It is timeless and layered. Every time I see the play, it feels like the first time.”
Craig Wallace is flawless in his performance of the lead Troy Maxson, especially when it comes to his interactions with son Cory Maxson, played by Justin Weaks.
In the play, Troy is a strong man who makes hard choices with painful consequences for those closest to him, especially Cory. Because of that, Wallace and Weaks must capture the oft-contentious relationship between father and son.
“It talks about the importance of breaking cycles,” said Teresa Roseborough of Atlanta. “All of us have felt that in our own families. It has a lot of poignancy being able witness it onstage with such amazing actors.”
Wallace has stepped into Troy’s shoes before and two seasons ago he portrayed Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman,” another tragic hero of Shakespearean proportions. Like Willy, Troy is a man reconciling with his unfulfilled dreams and struggling with the difference between love and responsibility.
“I love the way that Wilson works with language,” said Jennifer Anderson of Northeast. “He can take us from gritty street language to poetry and it all flows together. It’s musical.”
Erika Rose gives a moving performance as Rose Maxson whose loving, generous spirit masks a profound and formidable inner strength. She is a counterbalance to Troy’s ferocity, facing her own agonizing choices but guided by love and compassion.
“It’s an honor to be here tonight,” says Sakina Ansari, August Wilson’s daughter. “His legacy, hard work and dedication still lives on.”
“Fences” runs until Oct. 27 at Ford’s Theatre (511 Tenth Street NW).