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Thursday, April 26, 2007


Tony Award Preview Week: Radio Golf

by August Wilson
directed by Kenny Leon
starring Harry J. Lennix, Tonya Pinkins, Anthony Chisolm, James A. Williams, and John Earl Jelks
Cort Theatre, New York City

You can't help but feel a sense of melancholy while watching Radio Golf…although the play itself has a hopeful message of personal and political redemption, right there, pictured on the cover of your playbill, is the real reason you came: the late August Wilson, who finished this final play of his history cycle before his death last year. As the beautiful, simple, one-set drama unfolds before you – a local mayoral candidate, Harmond Wilks (Harry Lennix) gets caught up in the ethics of a Pittsburgh redevelopment deal – Wilson's glorious use of language, his astute and insightful politics, and his attention to character detail are all there, reminding you of our tragic, collective loss.

Given a strong and elegant production by director Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun), the play finds unexpected conflict in the rise of the African-American business class…and the question of whether economic progress for some truly benefits everyone. It's a great question to ponder in the Bush era. Granted, Radio Golf isn't among Wilson's greatest efforts – it never reaches the depths or power of Fences, Two Trains Running, or The Piano Lesson – and there are some misfires. Tonya Pinkins is ill-suited for a role as the Wilks' career-oriented wife, and Lennix smoothes over some of the rougher emotional textures. But one can't escape the aging grandeur of David Gallo's staggeringly gorgeous set, or the two powerhouse supporting performances by Anthony Chisolm and John Earl Jelks that ground and focus the narrative. Radio Golf may not be a perfect evening at the theater, but it's more than enough to entertain and enlighten...and a marvelous opportunity to say goodbye to an old friend.

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