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A CurtainUp Review
Their redevelopment project of homes and shops such as Whole Foods, runs into snags —- personal and financial. The most obvious obstacle being "Elder" Joseph Barlow, who would like to be thought of as a doddering old fool, but is in fact as crazy as a fox. As Barlow, Frederick Strother, who has worked for many years on Washington's stages, turns in his best performance to date. His comic timing is perfect. A large man, who towers over the actors he is tormenting with his wily ways, Strother is funny. And clever. And purposeful. His challenges to Wilks (convincingly played by Walter Coppage) and Hicks (Kim Sullivan, whose charm makes you understand how he trumps the questionable morals of his deals) belie his appearance. No fool he; he's as sharp as a tack.
Rounding out the ensemble, fine tuned by director Ron Himes, are the hard-driving but not hard-hearted Deidra LaWan Starnes as Mame Wilks, Harmond's politically ambitious wife, dressed (by Reggie Ray) most appropriately in suits that say she means business; Erik Kilpatrick as Sterling Johnson, the orphan who got into trouble, became an odd job man, and in spite of or maybe because of living hand-to-mouth, maintains a sense of right and wrong. He is the conscience of the piece.
For those of us who find most of August Wilson's work too talky and repetitious, Radio Golf is an eye-opener. Although the second act drags a bit, this otherwise excellent production takes you into the conflicts of socio-economic standing, of morals, of ambition and the lack of it within the African-American community.
To see Radio Golf at Washington's Studio Theatre on 14th Street, NW. is particularly poignant. After Martin Luther King was shot in 1968, the area was burned down by its hurt and angry residents. Its fate for the next two decades was what the "blight" referred to in the play. Thirty years ago, a theater troupe headed by Joy Zinoman moved in. Partly thanks to that theater's pioneering spirit in terms of real estate, 14th Street today is one of the city's most vibrant, multi-culti neighborhoods. Upscale ethnic restaurants, furniture stores, million dollar condos, and Whole Foods are neighbors to the 4-stage Studio Theatre, sometimes called the Zinoplex.
Editor's Note: For more about August Wilson, with links to other productions of Radio Golf we've reviewed, as well as his other plays, see our new August Wilson backgrounder