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Rep builds Wilson’s ‘Fences’ 

LEAD ACTORS: Catus, Elder.
  • LEAD ACTORS: Catus, Elder.

August Wilson’s “Fences,” a story of the urban landscape of the 1950s and the coming civil rights movement, will be presented by the Arkansas Repertory Theatre beginning Friday, Feb. 2.

The Rep has made a habit lately of producing the works of the late Wilson, who has been one of the most celebrated contemporary playwrights and who chronicled the 20th-century African-American experience through 10 plays, including “Fences,” considered his most popular work. The play debuted on Broadway 20 years ago and won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, as well as four Tony Awards, including Best Play in 1987. (Wilson also won a Pulitzer for “The Piano Lesson,” which the Rep produced in 2003.)

“Fences” will run through Feb. 18. A sneak preview and discussion with director Gilbert McCauley will be held Thursday, Feb. 1, on the main stage beginning at 7:15 p.m.

The passionate and sometimes humorous plot centers on the disillusioned and cynical Troy Maxson, a onetime Negro Baseball League star working as a garbage collector while trying to keep his family together. Pride and a troublesome past continue to haunt Maxson, who wants acceptance on his terms. Gerard Catus, a two-time New York AUDELCO award winner, is performing for the first time at the Rep, and plays Maxson. Judyann Elder, a veteran of stage and TV (“Martin,” “Murphy Brown”), plays Maxson’s wife, Rose. Elder helped found the Tony Award-winning Negro Ensemble Co. and first appeared on Broadway as Coretta Scott King opposite Billy Dee Williams in “I Have a Dream.”

Little Rock resident and Broadway performer Lawrence Hamilton plays Troy’s brother Gabriel. Maxson’s daughter, Raynell, is played alternately by young Arkansas actresses Nia Simone Jackson and Kharlissa Lovelace. Wendell B. Franklin and Yaegel Welch play his sons. Lawrence Evans, who appeared in the Rep’s “A Soldier’s Play,” returns as Maxson’s co-worker Bono.

McCauley, who directed the Rep’s “The Piano Lesson” and “A Soldier’s Play,” is associate professor at the University of Massachusetts and has directed Off-Broadway and regional theater.

Opening night’s performance begins at 8 p.m. and includes a post-show reception with the cast in the Rep lobby. Regular times are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, and 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Feb. 7 performance is signed for the hearing-impaired.

Tickets range from $20 to $35. Call 378-0405 for tickets or more information, including special plans for the Feb. 14 Valentine’s Day performance. “Fences” will move to Arkansas State University in Jonesboro after its Feb. 18 close in Little Rock.

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