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Fences by August Wilson
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A story about wanting more for others and your own self at the same time. It's about the barriers we put up in our lives. Wilson weaves words together to build these powerfully beautiful and heartbreaking monologues you really can't help getting chills when reading. Well, I couldn't at least. ( )
  ctkjs | Jan 3, 2018 |
1957 Pittsburgh.

Troy Maxson, garbage man and former Negro leagues star, is trying to stop his son from being recruited to college to play football. Troy is jealous and angry because of the course of his life. He was kept out of the major leagues by racist policies. He only owns his home because his brother was severely injured in WW2 and his settlement enabled them to buy the house. He has worked and worked but due to his race his abilities haven't mattered. He tries to convince his son that those supposed possibilities aren't real. His wife, Rose, disagrees. ( )
  Dreesie | Dec 6, 2017 |
August Wilson
Plume, 1986

"Can't visit the sins of the father upon the child."

A few summers back, August Wilson's play, FENCES, was performed at a local theater. I missed every performance. That was upsetting. I love seeing plays. Recently, I saw that FENCES was being made into a major motion picture with Denzel Washington. With renewed interest, I ordered the play, and read it in one sitting.

FENCES is set in the 1950s. The Acts mostly take place on Fridays. Payday. On the porch of a small house, with a dirt yard, we meet Troy Maxson, his wife Rose, their son Cory, Troy's other son, Lyons, and Troy's disabled brother, Gabe, and, additionally, Bono, Troy's lifelong friend.

Unfortunately, Troy is not a likeable man. Although he'd lived a hard life, his life is spent in the past. Despite having left home at fourteen, and spending fifteen years in prison for murder, he married, landed a good job as a garbage man, and started a family. His once dreamed of playing professional baseball. Too many things were stacked against him. The fact he was black became the tallest obstacle, and an impossible hurdle.

Hard working, Troy has little time for his boys. Lyons is in his thirties, and doesn't work. He is a musician, and despite having no money, and begging for cash from his father, it is clear Lyons wants to, in some way, salvage his relationship with his father. His constant pleas for Troy to come down to the club where his band plays scream for attention that time, and again, Troy ignores.

Rose's and Troy's son, Cory, is athletic. His football playing might land him a scholarship into college. A recruiter is anxious to discuss terms with Troy. Determined his son is living in a fantasy, Troy continually gives Cory a hard time, setting unrealistic goals with little care of the consequences.

Gabe, Troy's younger brother, fought in World War II. A plate in his head has him believing he is the Arch Angel Gabriel. The government checks helped Troy make ends meet, but when Gabe moves out, hard feelings set in.

Troy likes to make everyone believe he is smarter than he is. He wants people to know he is strong, and in charge. He is the King of his Castle. Ruler over Rose, and Cory, and even Lyons. What he says, goes. He is harsh, and brash, and obnoxious. Calloused, and careless.

His mistakes continually pile up. He makes one bad call after another. And then, when his reality is there facing him, ready to wrestle -- he has no one to blame for the outcome, except himself.

"You went back on yourself Troy. You gonna have to answer for that."

The thing is, I don't think Troy ever truly gets it. I don't think he ever understands that he was the problem. And that, for me, was the tragedy. That was what made this story so sad, and depressing. Troy never got it. He just never got it.

FENCES is a fantastic, taut play. I am going to have to read more August Wilson. No doubt about it. The messages were there. Clear, and not so subtle, and I loved the story.

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series, and
The Vaccination Trilogy ( )
  ptom3 | Feb 7, 2017 |
A great sad, poignant story of life, love and loss. So much packed into 101 pages. Wish I had been able to see James Earl Jones as Troy on Broadway. An amazing piece of literature and humanity. Universal. ( )
  Charlie-Ravioli | Jan 18, 2016 |

Troy Maxson is a strong man. He has survived a hard childhood and time spent without direction or purpose to become a responsible family man. He went through a time in American history where being proud and black meant facing obstacles that might crush a lesser man. But in the late 1950s things are beginning to change, and Troy Maxson is unsure how to behave in a world that frightens and angers him. What he learned so well in raising himself leaves him with a rigid sense of obligation, but no flexibility to deal with a world, a family, a wife and son he no longer understands.

Too bad my F2F book club decided to read this for discussion this month. I really dislike reading plays – reading is not the medium the playwright intended for reaching his audience. I’ve seen this play performed and it was powerful, dramatic, and thought-provoking. But reading it … I miss all the technique and skill that professional actors bring to translating Wilson’s words and directions into a visceral experience. There are some soliloquies that are exceptional – Troy reliving his boyhood and the event that caused him to leave home at age fourteen; Rose explaining her take on their marriage – but I had a hard time connecting to the characters through reading much of their dialogue on a page vs watching it unfold on the stage.

Wilson won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for this play. If you get a chance to see a performance, don’t miss it!
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
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During the 1950s Troy Maxson struggles against racism and tries to preserve his feelings of pride in himself.

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