Kelvin Roston Jr. as Troy Maxson and Dereks Thomas as Jim Bono. Source: Marisa Lenardson.

Review: 'August Wilson's Fences' Features a Fine Cast in a Powerful Production

Will Demers READ TIME: 3 MIN.

Pittsburgh, 1957: Former baseball player Troy Maxson (Kelvin Roston, Jr.) provides for his family as a sanitation worker, lamenting the past and barely embracing the present. His wife Rose (Jackie Davis) tries to keep him in line, close, and fed, while their son Cory (Nicholas Byers) dreams of playing football and going to college someday. In a segregated part of town in the mid-twentieth century, it seems impossible to Troy that anyone would even entertain a possibility of getting out, let alone achieve greatness of their own.

"August Wilson's Fences" is the playwright's 1985 work, the sixth in Wilson's ten-play "Pittsburgh Cycle," and it won both the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award. Set during a time when the color barrier had not been broken in Major League baseball, the character of Troy is unable to continue playing, not least in part because he spent several years in prison for a murder committed during a robbery. But Maxson, along with best friend and coworker Bono (Dereks Thomas), spends his time after working swilling gin and reminiscing about days gone by, while avoiding a home project of building a fence around his property. And Troy has some secrets he's been keeping from everyone except, perhaps, Bono.

Kelvin Roston Jr. as Troy Maxson and Jackie Davis as Rose
Source: Marisa Lenardson

Troy's younger brother Gabe (Martinez Napoleon), a World War II veteran, sustained a head injury and, unfortunately, much psychological damage. Taking the money Gabe received from the government, Troy secures a house for his family and moves Gabe to a rooming house, seemingly to keep him at arm's length because of his infirmity. Lyons (Rodney Witherspoon II), Troy's older son from another marriage, hangs out to try and form some connection with his father, himself a musician. Wilson's ability to fully flesh out his characters is very much on display here as Maxson seeks to better himself in the company by securing a job as a truck driver, which would not only mean a better payday, but would make him the first African-American garbage truck driver. Yet, he wishes the rest of his family to stagnate.

Director Christopher Windom, who previously directed "A Christmas Carol" in 2010 and "Fairview" in 2022, both at Trinity, is a graduate of the Brown/Trinity MFA program. His casting choices, as well as a simpler set design, allow this wonderful cast to shine in a polished, yet powerful, production. Davis commands the stage with an incredibly powerful performance as Rose; Roston (making his Trinity debut here) is absolutely electric as Troy, delivering a performance to be admired and respected. Byers as Cory is fantastic as he embodies the teenager terrified of his father, and Thomas (last seen in "Becky Nurse of Salem") brings a heartfelt warmth to Bono.

Witherspoon II is excellent as Lyons, and Napoleon makes an incredible debut as Gabe; you will not want to miss his portrayal. Filled with Wilson's frank dialogue, and some tragic twists, this production of "Fences" is a night of theater that washes over you like a wave of emotion. This is what Trinity Repertory Company does best.

"August Wilson's Fences" runs through April 28th at Trinity Repertory Company, 201 Washington Street, Providence, RI 02903. For information or tickets, call 401-351-4242 or visit

by Will Demers

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