Analysis of the play Fences staged at Actor's Theatre of Louisville. I saw the previous Thursday's performance. I received a 93 on this paper.

For the most part I thought the performance I attended went really smoothly, with all of the actors “on”. The largely geriatric audience seemed to pick up and keep up with action well, particularly well following the switch from humor to serious emotion at the start of the second act. There were some appropriate gasps as some of the emotional revelations (Troy’s cheating, Alberta’s death). The audience at the performance I went to seemed to have a particular support for Rose who received some loud cheers.

I found it intriguing that the amount of cheering drastically increased in the second act. From what I gathered from the murmur and trickle of audience conversation at intermission and at the end of the play, it appeared that much of that night’s audience was more captured by the emotion of the second half than the light-hearted entertainment of the first.

I heard some in class from previous performances discussing how their audiences didn’t follow the switch as swiftly and treated even some of the serious moments as if they were supposed to be completely comedic.

My largest complaints with the performance were related to the set design. The thrust-like design of the Pamela Brown Theater has some very harsh angles to it that really dominated the set design. These angles, where they came across in the fence and porch designs helped to add a “shoddy” feel to them, but also made them harsher to look at.

I thought that the fence and porch designs were rather realistic and close to the descriptions from the text. But what stood out was how abstract the rest of the design was from the realism of the fence and porch. The bleak brick wall representation of the house begged for more architectural features. Of particular point to me was that it needed at the least a flimsy screen door. It could have used a window as well, but I can understand the technical reasons of the particular set up of the theater’s vomitories getting in the way. For similar technical reasons I understand why the “trash can walls” were used to obscure the remaining portions of the vomitories, but they felt so artificial and abstract as to be irritating.

In writing this I seem to recall once having a conversation with someone stating the opinion that Pamela Brown was a great director’s thrust stage as it has good lines of sight from nearly every seat and the vomitories were apparently designed well to give easy and quick access to most of the stage floor, but that it was a horrible stage for set designers. I can’t recall who I had that conversation with and why, but it is an interesting observation.

I thought the casting was well done. Each cast member seemed to have a good grasp of their character. My biggest concern in this area was the actor who played Lyons appeared much “better fed” than a typical starving artist type. It gives the character an interesting twist, perhaps, if that was the intended purpose of the casting. The most interesting thing to me about the casting was that it helped me realize the obvious in retrospect fact that Bono was a Hispanic African American. From just reading it I hadn’t made the leap that Bono would have a slight Spanish accent, but, in hearing it, it made perfect sense.

I thought the lighting changes were done really well and did a wonderful job of giving a feeling of the passing of time. I thought the music fit well, although the first piece used sounded more like a 30s or 40s jazz cue than the rest, which seemed like appropriate 50s Blues/R&B cues.

The thing that really surprised me as far as the staging of the play went was the way the director segued from the penultimate scene to the final scene. How instead of swinging at the rags in his “Mr. Death” monologue, Troy was swinging on the porch as the lights darkened and blued, and then leaving Troy as a “ghost” presence in the background of the funereal scene that follows. I thought this was pretty good idea as it provided a way to help give the impression that “the gates open” in the finale, beyond just a simple lighting effect.