A Noise Within presents “Radio Golf,” the final play in August Wilson’s 10-play “American Century Cycle,” a decade-by-decade exploration of the Black experience in 20th century America.
By Carol Edger Germain
A Noise Within theater previously presented the first play in the series, “Gem of the Ocean” (set in the 1900’s) and “Seven Guitars” (set in the 1940’s). August Wilson won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award, and plays in the series have been produced at other theaters in LA County. Although created as a series, and mostly set in the same locale with a few characters connecting, each is a standalone play.
“Radio Golf” is set in 1997 Pittsburgh, where for the first time it is possible that a Black mayor, Harmond Wilks (Christian Telesmar) may be elected, with the active participation of his wife, Mame Wilks (Sydney A. Mason). The candidate has a business partner, Roosevelt Hicks (DeJuan Christopher) who hopes to become a partner at a radio station and broadcast about golf. Together, they are on the verge of obtaining permits and funding for a major redevelopment of a section of the Hill District if they can obtain a “blighted” designation. Whole Foods and Starbucks are on board as part of the business strip surrounded by multi-unit housing.
Step by step the project gets cleared, the area receives its blighted designation, and a starting date for demolition has been scheduled. Meanwhile, the owner of a standing but supposedly “abandoned” property, Elder Joseph “Old Joe” Barlow (Alex Morris) returns to his home to prepare it as a residence for his daughter, with the assistance of contractor Sterling Johnson (Matt Orduña), only to learn that the property has been transferred illegally, the house will be demolished, and the property will be absorbed into the new construction. The contractor’s influence and moral stance are critical factors. His wisdom in taking actions not expected from someone with a “shady background” show his true character and sense of justice. When these legal and moral complications arise, the partners and their supporters must determine how far “progress and improvement” should go when it raises soul-crushing, life-changing decisions and a person must choose between integrity, history, and legacy as opposed to progress and “the greater good.”
I loved the fact that because this play in the series is set in 1997 (it was the final of the 10 plays, first produced in 2005, and Wilson died that same year), many in the audience were alive during that time and there were lots of nods, short vocal responses and obvious familiarity with the substance of the play. Of course, many of the same issues are still flaws in society today, so I’m sure younger attendees get it as well. Although the play is over two hours long, every moment is vital, the story moves along and we are all hovering in anticipation to see which characters take which paths.
Radio Golf Written by August Wilson Directed by Gregg T. Daniel Starring DeJuan Christopher, Sydney A. Mason, Alex Morris, Matt Orduña, Christian Telesmar A Noise Within 3352 E Foothill Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91107 (626) 356-3100 anoisewithin.org Thursdays at 7:30 pm: Nov. 3; Nov. 10 (dark Oct. 27) Fridays at 8:00 pm: Oct. 28; Nov. 4; Nov. 11 Saturdays at 2:00 pm: Oct. 29; Nov. 5; Nov. 12 (no matinee on Oct. 22) Saturdays at 8:00 pm: Oct. 29; Nov. 5; Nov. 12 Sundays at 2:00 pm: Oct. 30; Nov. 6; Nov. 13 Free parking in the structure behind the theater, enter on Halstead
We hope you appreciated this article. Before you move on, please consider supporting the Colorado Boulevard’s journalism.
Billionaires, hedge fund owners and local imposters have a powerful hold on the information that reaches the public. Colorado Boulevard stands to serve the public interest – not profit motives.
While fairness guides everything we do, we know there is a right and a wrong position in the fight against racism and climate crisis while supporting reproductive rights and social justice. We provide a fresh perspective on local politics – one so often missing from so-called ‘local’ journalism.
You can access Colorado Boulevard’s paywall-free journalism because of our unique reader-supported model. People like you, informed readers, keep us independent, beholden to no outside influence, and accessible to everyone.
Please consider supporting Colorado Boulevard today. Thank you. (Click to Support)