Goshen Music Hall, Goshen
I just saw the last play August Wilson ever wrote, and we need to have a conversation about it.
By Andrew Andrews
Real estate mogul Harmond Wilks is about to announce his candidacy to become Pittsburgh’s first black mayor, and his wife, Mame, is preparing his speech for publication in the local paper.
Through their Bedford Hills Development Corporation, the Wilks’s also plan to revitalize Pittsburgh’s most distressed neighborhood, replacing its abandoned buildings with high-rise apartments and a shopping center that includes Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble, and of course a Starbucks.
Only one thing stands in the way: a “crazy” guy named Old Joe says that one of the properties they’re about to demolish is his family home, and he’s going to fix it up for his daughter to live in.
Harmond’s second-in-command, Roosevelt Hicks, isn’t about to let some “raggedy-ass, rodent-infested, unfit-for-human-habitation eyesore” stand in the way of their project—so he kicks Old Joe to the curb until he can produce a deed that proves the property is rightfully his.
Meanwhile, Wilks’ former grade school bully, Sterling Johnson, shows up at the office in search of a construction job. The reformed convict claims to be a member of the carpenter’s union, but when Wilks looks into hiring him, the facts just don’t add up.
Nominated for both Tony and Outer Critics Circle awards for its 2007 Broadway premiere, Radio Golf was August Wilson’s final play, succumbing to liver cancer in 2005.
When Arts Mid-Hudson announced that CTA would be producing Radio Golf, I knew that I just had to see it.
Firstly because—let’s be honest—as wonderful as theatre is across the Hudson Valley, there’s a dearth of minority representation in productions north of New York City, even though people of color make up a quarter of the area population. And who better chronicles the heritage and experiences of the African-American community through the last century than “theater’s poet of Black America?”
While my second reason for looking forward to this play may be personal, the fact that I spent more than half of my life in-and-around The Steel City means that I’m already familiar with the story’s setting and some of the history that it dramatizes.
Radio Golf beautifully captures the universal tension between have-nots and powers-that-be through the lens of a single community, making it a fully-accessible story for anyone from anywhere of any background. Furthermore, Wilson was phenomenal at maximizing drama while tempering it with comedy, throwing his mishmash of characters into a situation where everyone is right despite their opposing viewpoints and general disdain for each other.
Although one of the actors in this production isn’t quite as skilled as the rest, and more than one person jumped their lines on more than one occasion during our opening night performance, the cast certainly does justice to the piece, and the intimate performance space really provides that “fly-on-the-wall” feeling that sucks the audience into the action, anxious to see how the dust will settle.
Here’s hoping that more of the region’s companies will follow the lead of this wonderful little theatre in the quaint village of Goshen in better representing the diversity of people and stories both across the valley and throughout our nation’s history.
Andrew Andrews attended Radio Golf at Goshen Music Hall in Goshen on Saturday, September 10, 2022 @ 7:00pm to write this review.
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