FENCES: Forgetting the past and forgiving others

Jackie Davis (Rose), Martinez Napoleon (Gabriel), Nicholas Byers (Cory), and Rodney Witherspoon II (Lyons). Photo by Marisa Lenardson

Trinity Repertory Company presents August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Fences, directed by Christopher Windom. August Wilson was a Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning playwright, best known for his 10-play American Century Cycle, which explores the heritage and experiences of African Americans throughout the 20th century decade by decade.

Fences, the sixth play in the Cycle, is perhaps Wilson’s most well-known play and most powerful. In segregated 1957 Pittsburgh, former Negro League baseball player Troy Maxson, 53, is now scraping by as a sanitation worker who struggles to provide for his family. Once a pillar of his community, Maxson now only exerts control over his wife and two sons. Troy’s desire to protect his family from oppression grows warped by his narcissistic personality, mixed with his stubborn pride, and a bit of alcohol. This must-see has been aptly described as “A devastating look at a man and his family’s strained relationships,” although strained is putting it mildly.


August Wilson’s Fences is one of the greatest American plays of the last century, and we are so thrilled that it is back on our stage as part of our 60th season, interrogating the centrality of family in American life,” says Trinity Rep artistic director Curt Columbus. “Director Christopher Windom’s production, which centers the character of Rose, deals with the ways in which family is composed in complicated, unpredictable ways. Wilson’s incredible language is on thrilling display, as it always is, and so are some of the most memorable characters he has ever created.”

Windom explains, “At its core, Fences is a story about a family of individuals who are each striving to fulfill their unique sense of self-expression, all while navigating the strained responsibility that being a family can demand.”

It helps that this cast is exceptionally talented. Trinity Rep resident company member Jackie Davis gives a powerful portrayal as Rose Maxson, one of Wilson’s most iconic female characters. Windom says in a prior interview, “The pillar of this family is Rose, who is a matriarch and mother figure extraordinaire. As a character, Rose interests me greatly. It’s easy to lose sight of her when she’s being overshadowed by the life force of her husband, Troy. But Rose has my attention, and I’m interested in the message she has to say through the language of August Wilson.” Indeed, you will walk away from this performance contemplating Rose’s plight and giving nature.

Kelvin Roston, Jr. dexterously portrays leading man Troy Maxson. Roston brings a deep understanding of the Wilson canon, having previously appeared in some of his other productions. You can’t take your eyes off Roston as you witness his incredible versatility, which is evident as he carries us through the laughs, the anger and the tears. Martinez Napoleon, portrays Troy’s brother Gabriel who captures hearts with his innocence, tearful anxiety, and wistful singing. Gabe, a WWII veteran, suffered a head injury which left him with psychological damage. Gabe has the presence of mind to move away from Troy’s control but visits regularly, and although he lacks the capacity to advocate for himself, he has the support of his loving family.

Nicholas Byers adeptly fills the role of Cory, the son of Troy and Rose. He has our heart as we watch his range of emotion as he deals with his abusive father. Byers is currently a student actor and definitely one to keep your eye on. Another young actor you can’t help but love is Felese Kparyea, who ably and adorably portrays the role of Troy’s daughter Raynell, a role she alternates with Blair Pierre. Rounding out the cast are returning guest artists Dereks Thomas as Jim Bono, Troy’s best friend and coworker, and Rodney Witherspoon II as Troy’s first son, Lyons. 

The production’s creative team includes costume designer Kenisha Kelly, lighting designer Marika Kent, sound designer and composer Elton Bradman, and fight choreographer Mark Rose (please note: there are short bursts of violence that may be triggering for some). Scenic designer Lex Liang furnishes the set with awesome country decor that hangs from the ceiling — think Cracker Barrel on steroids.

Fences runs through April 28. For more information, visit or call (401) 351-4242.