REVIEW: August Wilson’s ‘Fences’ at Sacramento Theatre Company

A powerful rendition of a masterpiece play


Gabriel (Anthony M. Person) calls on St. Peter to open the pearly gates at the close of ‘Fences’. Left to Right: Cathleen Riddley, Anthony M. Person, J’cyn Crawley, Sincee J. Daniels. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Lawton)

Odin Rasco

Score: 4.5 / 5 Hornets

I fought more than once to hold back tears while watching Sacramento Theatre Company’s production of August Wilson’s ‘Fences’. 

The play, on the surface, is the story of the Maxon family, but weaved throughout are themes of race, failure, regret, generational trauma and deferred dreams. Wilson’s story of the Maxons, centered on the complex and flawed Troy is excellently brought to the stage by STC thanks to strong performances paired with great set design.

Every actor has at least one moment during the show’s two and a half hour run where they dominate the stage with the depth of their performance. The shifting dynamics between Troy and his son, Cory; the despair and confusion Troy brings into his wife’s life; and, of course, Troy’s internal confrontations regarding the kind of man he truly is; all these key points of tension in the narrative are given their due emotional weight by the performances given.

Michael J. Asberry is exceedingly well cast as Troy Maxon, bringing a nuanced performance that allowed Troy to become, what he would describe as “big as life.” Troy’s wife, Rose, was also brought to life expertly, with Cathleen Riddley’s mid-show scene with Troy carrying all the weight of sincere emotional devastation. 

The standout performance in the show is Anthony M. Person as Gabriel, who brings excellent timing, physicality and sincerity to the role, and closes out the final scene so perfectly it is as though he has leapt straight from the pages of the play itself.

The technical aspects of the show are of the quality one can expect from an STC production. The set design is well done, creating an authentic look and feel for the backyard in 1957 Pittsburgh where the show takes place. 

The attention to detail, from the mottled paint on the brick facade to the fence that slowly grows to completion over time, all draw the viewer into the world of the play. Similarly, the costumes feel authentic to the time period and to the characters wearing them.

The scene changes are done quickly, and are brilliantly masked with a selection of radio jingles and advertisements from the era, to keep the audience firmly rooted in the setting. The lighting is subtle but effective, though the screen projection backdrop does feel underutilized.

As Sacramento theatres return to operation after years navigating the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that audiences return as well. There is no better play to return with than STC’s ‘Fences.’