The tenth and final play in August Wilson’s ten-part play series The Century Cycle, 2005’s Radio Golf, was Two River Theater’s last production prior to the theater shutdown of 2020. To reopen the larger-capacity Rechnitz Theater in their Red Bank home, Two River has chosen to re-mount the play for a limited two-week engagement. I was fortunate enough to have seen the play at its pre-pandemic opening in 2020, and I am pleased to say that the revived production is every bit as powerful—and every bit as worth seeing—as before.
Artistic Director John Dias, in his welcoming speech, made mention of the fact that like so many others in the early days of COVID-19, the Two Rivers staff thought that it would pass in a week or two, or maybe a month. So they left Edward E. Haynes Jr.’s set standing, and in doing so, they made a silent commitment to finish out their engagement of Radio Golf once the theater reopened. With the fortuitous return of members of the original 2020 cast along with director Brandon J. Dirden, the result is a powerful presentation of Wilson’s final play before his untimely passing in 2005.
The play deals with the struggle between preservation and redevelopment in the run-down historically Black Hill District of Pittsburgh in 1997. With his wife Mame and business partner Roosevelt Hicks at his side, Hammond Wilks is an upwardly-mobile Black realtor set to build a complex including high-rise apartment buildings and such chain stores as Starbucks and Whole Foods in the district. The plan calls for the demolition of a house at 1839 Wiley Avenue, a historic neighborhood place once home to the legendary Aunt Ester Tyler, a three-centuries-old matriarch and healer. It is around the demolition of the house, combined with Wilks’ plan to run for mayor of Pittsburgh and the competing ambitions of Mame and Hicks, that the play builds to a shattering climax of betrayal, redemption, and the value of family.
Outstanding acting talent and Dirden’s sensitive direction make this play not only the perfect choice for the reopening of Two River Theater to live performances but a must-see event for any serious theater-goer. I strongly urge you to see August Wilson’s Radio Golf before its too-brief run ends.
Radio Golf is presented by Two River Theater in Red Bank through November 21st. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit tworivertheater.org or call 732-345-1400. The theater requires proof of vaccination and a photo ID to enter, and masks must be worn while inside the building.