|Troy Maxson and Jim Bono share laughs and booze after work.|
As seen Tuesday night, there's an exuberance about this process that was immediately captured as a laughing Troy Maxson (David Alan Anderson) and his best friend Jim Bono (Marcus Naylor) tumble upon the scene of the Maxson home. The show's period-perfect residence is designed in exquisitely crafted detail by Vicki Smith and lit in warm, carefully shopworn tones by Don Darnutzer.
Bellamy's hand is again sure in this production. The stubborn vitality of urban black life, existentially hemmed in by racism undergoing slow, wrenching change in 1957, was immediately engaged. In such straitened circumstances, bitterness can be held at bay for a while, but the effort is too much for Troy's anguished, forceful personality. He clings to the myth of lower-middle-class values, the rewards attendant upon hard work and family, but his past struggles feed a larger myth: the professional baseball stardom he feels might have been his.
|In his front yard, Troy Maxson relives baseball glory for his wife, Rose.|
Troy's ferocity and determination to command his own little world came through consistently in Anderson's portrayal. It particularly underlined the pathos of his son Cory's situation; he's thwarted by his father's penchant for control and eventually driven from home. Edgar Sanchez modulated his rage well in the role of the normally compliant Cory, as the teen is goaded to rise violently against his father's emotional abuse.
|Raynell (Elise Kelisah Benson) and Cory (Edgar Sanchez) share memories of a father and his song.|
Yet in what he says about his past, we learn enough about Troy's vulnerable nature, a fragility he works to keep hidden with bluster and bullying, to wish Anderson showed it more. When Cory tries to find out why his father doesn't like him, for example, Anderson's Troy vociferously dismisses the question mockingly and indignantly.
Visual evidence that Troy is truly taken aback by the question, that it gives him pause and takes the shine off his bravado, was lacking. It's at least an arguable nuance of the character Wilson created. In some sense, therefore, as captivating as Anderson's cyclonic virtuosity is as Troy Maxson, the role of Roosevelt Hicks, the amoral up-and-comer in "Radio Golf," seems more perfectly suited to him.
Marcus Naylor gave a best-friend authenticity to Jim Bono, and reflected how painfully his loyalty was tested to the breaking point by Troy's straying nature. James T. Alfred performed buoyantly as the jazz-musician son of Troy by a different woman, and Terry Bellamy bewildered and delighted as Troy's brain-damaged brother, a gentle street peddler and self-appointed guardian against the hounds of hell.
In the last scene, Elise Keliah Benson as Raynell, the result of Troy's unfaithfulness, tenderly suggested the persistence of hope for this family. Symbolized by the fence that at length encloses the front yard, the solidity of a household that Troy helped create as well as damage endures.
So does his song, in the voices of the half-siblings Raynell and Cory, about the faithful hunting dog Blue, who treed possums in a hollow log and even on Noah's ark. The tragedy of Troy Maxson is that he was just as determined as Blue, but much less adaptable. Previously presented by IRT in 1996, the story strikes home once again in the current production.
[Production photos by Zach Rosing]