Monday, April 23, 2007

Radio Golf

Radio Golf, the final installment of August Wilson's ten play cycle about African American life throughout the Twentieth Century, is not the author's best play. However, it is the most pleasing and engrossing work in the playwright's canon since Seven Guitars. Completed and first produced shortly before Wilson's death in 2005, it deals with urban renewal in Pittsburgh's Hill District in 1997, offering a compelling discussion of the ramifications that come with rebuilding a broken community. Not having Wilson around to do rewrites could have been detrimental to the success of the work, but the long gestation period it has had--at least half a dozen productions before reaching Broadway--definitely seems to have helped: even at tonight's very early preview, it was running as smooth as any play in New York. While Harry Lennix's line readings were often stiff, his easy physical rapport more than compensated; he was an utterly believable candidate. Tonya Pinkins is pitch-perfect as his supportive wife, and James A. Williams hits all the right notes in the stereotypical role of his bourgeois business partner, a black man just itching to be accepted by the white male hierarchy. In the end, though, the play belongs to the great Wilson interpreter Anthony Chisholm. Alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, he commands the stage from his first entrance, imbuing his character with touching, tough as nails pathos. His performance, and Kenny Leon's exemplary staging (his best work to date), are the ultimate tribute to Mr. Wilson's legacy.

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