Review: Lorraine Hansberry Theatre builds strong 'Fences'

Lorraine Hansberry Theatre is closing out its 27th season, its last in its downtown Sutter Street location, in grand style with August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Fences.”

Under the helm of company artistic director Stanley E. Williams, the moving, always engaging production reveals why this drama about a black family in 1957 Pittsburgh earned so many accolades after it opened in New York in 1987. The show, part of Wilson’s famed cycle of 10 plays, each depicting a decade of the 20th century African-American experience, also won four Tony Awards, including Best Play, along with three Drama Desk Awards and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play.

The protagonist is Troy Maxon, a gregarious everyman of sorts. A former baseball player (who never made the integrated big leagues), he has a generic job as a trash collector.

He lives with his dutiful, loving wife and a football-playing son in high school; and is in close touch with a World War II-ravaged brother; a grown-up son by a woman he never married; and a good pal who joins him on the garbage route each day.

While Wilson’s language is sometimespoetic, his brilliant depiction of everyday life circumstances, and his characters’ emotions below their words, are what make “Fences” such an important, thrilling work.

Acting is strong all-around, particularly when the long setup of the first act pays off explosively in the second, as consequences of Troy’s actions, both long ago and more recent, begin to reverberate among his loved ones.

Alex Morris (who appeared on TV’s “Malcolm in the Middle”) provides the show’s strong anchor, showcasing Troy’s conflicts and complexities, and how his pride has blinded him to the needs of others.

Elizabeth Carter as Troy’s wife Rose shines particularly at the show’s climax, as does Axel Alvin Jr. as their son Cory, who’s fenced in by Troy’s negativity about his future as an athlete. As Gabriel, Troy’s trumpet-playing brother whose war wounds had long-lasting mental effects, Hosea Simmons Jr. stands out

The gray setting is the backyard of Troy’s home (effective design by Robert Broadfoot), where he’s in the process of building a fence, posing the show’s metaphorical question: Is the fence to keep people in or to keep them out? Exploring the boundaries and possibilities of that query is the beauty of Wilson’s modern classic.

IF YOU GO

Fences

Where: Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 620 Sutter St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; closes April 20

Tickets: $27 to $36

Contact: (415) 474-8800 or www.lhtsf.org

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

(Examiner file photo)
Charter amendment effort would replace elected school board with appointed body

Critics of the San Francisco Unified School District board on Monday formally… Continue reading

Jill Bonny, owner of Studio Kazoku tattoo parlor in the Haight, tattoos client Lam Vo on Friday, March 5, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
No one was fighting for tattoo artists, so they started advocating for themselves

Jill Bonny has been tattooing in the Bay Area since 2000. Four… Continue reading

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted changes to The City's streets including Slow Streets closures to increase open space access and the Shared Spaces program, which allows businesses to use public right-of-ways for dining, retail and services. (Examiner illustration)
COVID is reshaping the streets of San Francisco

Walk down Page Street, which is closed to thru-traffic, and you might… Continue reading

(Go Nakamura/Getty Images/TNS)
Fully vaccinated? Here are the CDC guidelines for what you can do after receiving a COVID vaccine

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday issued its… Continue reading

Brandi Harrapence, right, has lunch with her daughter Kayla Harrapence inside Firestone Grill in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo, open for inside dinning for the first time in nearly a year, on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 in San Luis Obispo, California. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
California is far from herd immunity, making a 4th COVID-19 wave possible. Here’s how

Rong-Gong Lin II and Luke Money Los Angeles Times California is optimistic… Continue reading

Most Read