PICK! ASR Theater ~~ “Fences” – 6th Street Playhouse Honors Wilson Masterpiece

By Susan Dunn

The Monroe Stage is small and dark, an arena with its three sides packed with audience. The simple but evocative set by Aissa Simbulan is a small frame house and yard with a view through a window into the kitchen interior. Surrounding the arena stage is the fence – a work in progress – which marks the passage of time and is finally finished at the play’s end.

Keene Hudson stars as Troy Maxson, with Val Sinckler as Rose in “Fences”. Photos by Eric Chazankin

August Wilson’s Fences is about the life of Troy Maxson (Keene Hudson) and how he keeps family and friends close and how he lets them go. It’s everyman’s story. As Troy’s friend Bono (Nicolas James Augusta) warns in act two: “Some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build fences to keep people in.”

 … Fences is one of our greatest American masterpieces …

In Wilson’s most intense play about family, Troy can’t seem to finish his fence just as he can’t step outside himself and share the musical world of his son Lyons (De’Sean Moore) or the sports world of his son Cory (Mark Anthony). We learn Troy’s own life in detail through his many stories, colorful swagger, sexiness, and bonhomie.

His tales mask a man disappointed in himself and angry at his life’s chances and challenges. He’s burdened by the drudgery of his work as a Pittsburgh garbage collector and by the responsibility of caring for his brain-damaged brother Gabriel (Jim Frankie Banks). His is a story of oppression and homelessness at age 14 and eventual seeming stability in the loving support of his wife Rose (Val Sinckler), a powerhouse of tolerance who finds in herself a way to pardon his many outbursts.

Each family member and friend is memorably etched by Wilson, and the acting in this production never disappoints. Principals Hudson and Sinckler, and supporting cast Anthony, Augusta, and Banks are all simply outstanding. They bring home an empathy that provoked tears and audible gasps and cries from the audience.

What gives this production such a high level of excellence are the many elements that immerse the audience in the scene: blues music from the 1950s, actors’ use of the small stage creating a whole world inside Troy’s fence, a baseball hanging on a string from a tree branch, clothes on a wash line, crates serving as chairs, and the unfinished fence that lines the stage edge. And outside that fence are the forces of unpredictability, menace, constriction, and banishment.

Photos by Eric Chazankin. L-R: Mark Anthony, Val Sinckler, Keene Hudson.

Direction by Jordan Oliver-Verde is spot on: his use of sound and light effects when Troy is wrestling with death, Troy’s meandering as he tells his stories, and the fight scenes, which are brief but unforgettable. In the end, Rose emerges as a woman saved from the loss of her husband’s love by the raising of a daughter, not her own—a lovely stunning performance by Sinckler.

August Wilson’s Fences is one of our greatest American masterpieces. 6th Street’s production does it full justice.


Since arriving in California from New York in 1991, Susan Dunn has been on the executive boards of Hillbarn Theatre, Altarena Playhouse, Berkeley Playhouse, Virago Theatre and Island City Opera, where she is a development director and stage manager. An enthusiastic advocate for new productions and local playwrights, she is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, and a recipient of a 2015 Alameda County Arts Leadership Award. Contact: susanmdunn@yahoo.com

Written byAugust Wilson
Directed byJordan Oliver-Verde
Producing Company6th Street Playhouse
Production DatesJanuary 12 – February 4, 2024
Production Address6th Street Playhouse
52 W. 6th Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Telephone (707) 523-4185
Tickets$29 to $45
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review PICK?YES!