February 23rd, 2008



FencesAshland, Oregon
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
opening performance, February 23, 2008

Fences by August Wilson

The opening of Fences revealed a shaky story shakily told.

I assume that it's the script which has inconsistencies and false starts that Oregon Shakespeare merely brought forward.  Certainly this production didn't weave together a clear or consistent or entertaining storyline from whatever August Wilson wrote.

To begin, various cast members stumbled over lines at least a half dozen times.  Blowing lines in an obvious way is my personal pet peeve;  it always jars me out of the moment. And, these Fences characters had tongue-tie-itis, especially the actors who appeared on stage early in the narrative.

It wasn't just the lines that missed.  The direction, characters, sound, and lighting didn't fit quite right. 

Director Leah Gardiner amped everyone's energy up one or two notches above reasonable.  Words exploded at odd moments. 

In addition, Gardiner put me off with the playbill blurb:

"In 1957, when this play begins,  nine black students, protected by federal troops, desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Throughout the country, Black Americans, although aware that change was inevitable, continued to live segregated lives."
What?  Inevitable?  Really, the country should have just sat back and waited then, eh? How young is this director? How clueless?
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I want to see all of August Wilson's plays.  The best part of this production is that I can check Fences off the list.

Ozdachs rating: Rating 2 out of 5
(A softening note:  when I saw Gem last year, I gave it only 3 stars.  Friends educated me on its subtleties and when I saw it again in August, I was standing with the crowd at the curtain call.)