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Review: Fences at Players by the Sea

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Fences, one of the plays in August Wilson’s 10-play cycle, chronicling the African-American experience of the 20th century, is in production at Players by the Sea through April 1. This Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning drama is a heart-wrenching tale of love, ambition and the struggles of black families in the 1950s and shouldn’t be missed.

Players by the Sea decided to stage Fences after the film version, directed by and starring Denzel Washington, was released last December. In that film, Viola Davis won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Set in 1957 in Pittsburgh, Fences tells the story of Troy Maxson, a former star of the Negro baseball leagues who now works as a garbage man. Excluded as a black man from the major leagues during his prime, Troy’s bitterness takes its toll on his relationships with his wife and his son, who now wants his own chance to play ball.

Players’ production is thoughtfully directed by Jereme Raickett. The bittersweet story moves at the perfect pace. The talented cast delivers outstanding performances of the story’s richly complex and compelling characters.

The show premiered in 1985 with James Earl Jones playing the leading role of Troy. In Players’ production, Troy is skillfully presented by Eugene Lindsey, who reveals a bitter man struggling with his fears and jealousy. Shauntel Robinson presents an emotionally powerful and poignant performance as Troy’s wife, Rose. As Troy’s his teenage son, Cory, Chandler Bryant is very believable, demonstrating the torment and tension in his struggles to live up to his father’s expectations.

David Girard is captivating as Jim Bono, Troy’s friend and fellow sanitation worker. They share drinks and laughs, yet it is obvious that he cares deeply for Troy and is concerned about his family troubles. Gregory Hughes presents an enthralling performance as Troy’s brother, Gabriel Maxson, a World War II veteran with a traumatic head injury.

Equally gripping is Chelvert Wellington as Lyons Maxson, Troy’s adult son from a previous marriage and a jazz musician whom his father views with contempt for his habit of showing up on payday asking to borrow money. Essence Moore is charming as Raynell Maxson, Troy’s out-of-wedlock young daughter.

The show is presented on Players’ intimate studio stage with a beautiful set design by Jay Deen. The action takes place in front of the Maxon household, a two-story home with a large tree in front and a fence under construction. Claire Cimino oversaw the properties and set dressing. The creative team also includes lighting design by Jereme Raichett, sound design by Eric Yarham, costume design by Keisha Burr with assistance from seamstress Gayle Featheringill and resident costume manager Amy Hancock. The stage manager is Janet Chavous

Performances continue March 23, 23, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31, and April 1. Curtain is 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. General admission tickets are $23, $20 for seniors, students and military. Thursday night is student night with half price tickets at the door with a valid student ID.

Players by the Sea is located at 106 6th St. N. in Jacksonville Beach. Call (904) 249-0289 or visit www.PlayersbytheSea.org.