Fences – a Triumph at Cygnet

Unequivocally, Cygnet’s production of August Wilson’s Fences, under the brilliant direction of Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, is the best production I’ve seen this season.

Within moments of the house lights dimming, we are thrust into the lives of the Maxson family. We are voyeurs observing the most inner feelings and outer rants of Troy Maxson (Antonio “T.J.” Johnson), husband and marginal family provider. He is a man constantly fighting his inner demons, dominating his family, ruling his son with an iron fist, and drinking his whiskey with his fellow workers. He also has another side, which is revealed slowly.

His wife, Rose (Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson), exhibits her love for him and their family. She, also, is a master of her own destiny. Troy best never forget that.

Son Cory (Patrick Kelly) is dominated by his overbearing father. He has his goals and aspirations, which don’t coincide with Troy’s dreams. Conflict is inevitable.

Lyons (Laurence Michael Brown), Troy’s older son, comes by from time to time, usually to cadge ten bucks. Even this relationship has rather intimate, revealing moments.

Gabriel (Mark Christopher Lawrence), Troy’s mentally impaired brother, is a sweet, though sometimes misunderstood, man. He probably should be institutionalized, but Troy isn’t ready to do that as the play begins.

Jim Bono (Grandison Phelps III) is Troy’s co-worker and drinking buddy. Their friendship should last forever, but events and emotions play a role in change.

Raynell (Madeline Hornbuckle), Troy’s daughter, enters the scene late. Her birth causes a permanent rift in the family.

These seven allow a new group, five times a week, to view their lives. They allow us to see their moments of excellence and their flaws, for they all have flaws. Their body language expresses as much as August Wilson’s authentic language. Delicia Turner Sonnenberg’s influence creates level of realism seldom experienced on the stage. Their movements express power and weakness that words alone could not portray.

The design team and crew have added to the unity of this production. Fences has had an interesting history just in San Diego. Some members of this cast appeared in the late Dr. Floyd Gaffney’s 1990 production at the Lyceum. T. J. directed an excellent production at Scripps Ranch Theatre just seven years ago. I’m reminded of it every day as I look out my dining room window to the stylized fence that graced that set.

My advice is to dial 619 698-5855 to make your reservations. This show is going to be a sell-out. From the rant and roar emitting from Antonio “T.J.” Johnson to the sweet innocence of Madeline “Maddy” Hornbuckle’s portrayal. Fences not only reveals the inner secrets of the Maxsons and those around them, it reveals much about us. Call now.


Laurence Brown, Madeline Hornbuckle, Antonio T. J. Johnson, Patrick Kelly, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Grandison Phelps III, Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson

Technical Staff

Set Design Mike Buckley, AD Ian Casselberry, Prop Design Bonnie L. Durben, Wig & Hair Design Peter Herman, Lighting Design Eric Lotze, Costume Design Veronica Murphy, SM Rachel Wohlander, Sound Design George Ye

Total Rating: Four Stars

Genre: Drama

Author: August Wilson

Director: Delicia Turner Sonnenberg

Date Reviewed: January 26, 2008

Dates: Thursday to Sunday, January 26 to February 24, 2008

Running Time: 148 minutes with a 15-minute intermission

Caution Guidance: Adult situations and language

Cygnet Theatre & San Diego Black Ensemble Theatre

Cygnet Theatre

6663 El Cajon Blvd, Suite N

San Diego, CA

Box Office Phone 619 337-1525 Ext 3

Robert Hitchcox is a playwright, critic and fiction author, who reviews live theatre.