Written by 8:15 pm Costa Mesa, Review, Theater, Uncategorized

Fences @ Costa Mesa Playhouse – Review

photo credit: Michael Serna

Written by Patrick Chavis

August Wilson, one of the most prolific American playwrights of the 20th century, premiered Fences in 1985, winning a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award in 1987. Even after Wilson’s passing, Fences remains one of Wilson’s most celebrated works. While this production of Fences does suffer from some uneven performances, its peaks way overshadow its valleys in this simple but quality rendition of Fences. 


The play Fences chronicles an aging former Negro Leagues player Troy Maxson (Damon Rutledge), now a Garbageman, and his family as he struggles to take care of them and himself set in 1957 and 1965 in the city of Pittsburgh.

Fences has such beautiful language and so many heart-pounding scenes. It’s hard not to come away from this play without learning or experiencing something about the human condition. More specifically, the African American experience at that time. The play shows us what happens when those invisible metaphorical fences, a barrier used to protect us from harm and trauma, can become detrimental to the characters that put up those walls; not only is it understandable that they do so, but it’s tragic as it damages the bonds of the family and everyone in its path. It’s a tragic story that cuts to the heart. Whether you are African American or not, this play is chock-full of the complex realities of life.  


Director Rovin Jay’s vision comes through with a well-presented portrayal of how culturally people would talk back then in the African American American community. Honestly, some older cats still speak like this to this day when you are just chilling and hanging out. This aspect of the culture was captured quite well in this production. However, Wilson has these long poetic moments, especially with characters like Troy Maxson. He has some of the most quotable lines in this show, and these performances vary not to a large degree, but they do. 

Set Design:

David Scaglione’s set design featured a weathered-looking old shack in the background of an open dirt yard. I thought the construction from Mike Brown, Steve Endicott, Peter Kreder, Kathy Paladino, Michael Serna, and David Scaglione – let me catch my breath- was quality. The small details, like a window showing part of the inside of the house, are utilized in the scene. The patio and the lighting from Donny D. Jackson are used throughout, but especially at the end; it is a treat. 


Philip Bushell delivers an impressive performance as Gabriel Maxson, Troy’s mentally disabled brother, a disability he received fighting in WW2. Bushell imbodied the character of Gabriel Maxson. Gabriel’s trumpet is broken, but not Bushnell’s thorough grasp of the character. I loved Van Hudson Jr.’s relaxed but funny performance as Jim Bono, Troy’s best friend and supporter. I’m not writing a Fences review without a baseball reference. He knocked it out of the park. Taj Young is definitely an actress to look out for, and this performance as Rose Maxson more than solidifies this fact. 

For fans of the material and dramatic, serious acting, Costa Mesa production has your ticket with Fences.

8.1 Overall
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Set & Design8.4
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Good Show! OCR Recommended! May 18 – June 9, 2024.

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