Sometimes, when you can’t hit over the fences anymore, you end up taking it out on your children.

Sometimes, when you can’t hit over the fences anymore, you end up taking it out on your children.

Portland Center Stage’s new show, Fences, follows the life of Troy Maxson (played by Wendell Wright), a former Negro League power hitter who never got the big break that Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron did. Missing his prime as a player, Maxson takes out his disappointment in his life on his poor family. To be fair, Maxson has had a hellacious life. Throughout the show he drones on and on about the wrongs that have been done to him in his life and the problems he had with his own father. His wife Rose (played by Wanda Christine) and sons Cory (played by Robert Christopher Riley) and Lyons (played by Che Ayende) make up his family.

The play starts out in the front yard of a nice house in Pittsburgh, Pa., and jumps into the story with a candid scene with Maxson and his good friend Jim Bono (played by Don Mayo). Mayo is the best part of the play and by far the most superior actor on the stage.

The youngest son, Cory, has just been offered a football scholarship, and because of Maxson’s difficulties finding success in the primarily white sports of the 1950s, he refuses to sign a paper that will allow Cory to play in college. Teen angst can be smelt like a spilled gallon of rotten milk every time Cory comes to the stage.

During the show we learn more about the family and find out that Maxson has been having an affair. The news of the affair leaves the family annihilated and the already tumultuous household becomes even stranger.

The show is extremely well written and well acted by some of the members of the cast. The glaring weakness in the show is the quality of direction. The characters use very little of the stage in their movement and each scene is acted as though it is the most melodramatic thing this side of MTV’s The Hills. The fighting scenes are absolutely atrocious. The director looks like he has never staged a fight in his life.

In truth, director Jonathan Wilson’s interpretation of the show is awful. Cast members enter and exit the stage so much it feels like a farce.

In one dramatic scene where Maxson loses someone close to him, it looks more like he is grieving after accidentally stepping on a cockroach rather than losing someone he actually cares about. The character Cory has three emotions: brooding, teen angst and happy-go-lucky, making him obnoxious whenever he delivers a line. Some would say this is the fault of the actors, and that could be true, but I feel it goes straight to the director’s incompetence and inability to direct them.

The best actor on the stage was Don Mayo, who plays Maxson’s friend Jim Bono. He plays serious moments compassionately and funny moments like a comedian. He definitely lights up the stage, as he has a strong understanding of his character and how to ignore a bad director.

The show ignites racial problems in sports and in the world during the 1950s. However, I don’t think it does the play justice.