Review: “Radio Golf” might be set in ’97, but it feels timelier than ever

This performance is one people need to see. Although it is set in the year 1997 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, you would think the play was set in 2018.

The Melting Pot’s production of August Wilson’s “Radio Golf” has perfect timing in our current social and political atmosphere. The play remains just as relatable as it was when it premiered in 2005, touching on issues that urban and black Americans face to this day.

The show was acted as if it wasn’t just rehearsed by the actors and crew, but as if it were experienced by each actor in their current lives outside of acting. The blackness on the stage share a vast amount of representation, but also share the different views of social class in the black culture.

Directed by Harvey Williams, a UMKC graduate, the play depicts an urban atmosphere that expresses the issues that come to poor black communities lacking economic development.

“Radio Golf” is set during the election season of Harmond Wilks (Robert Coppage), and announces his run for mayor using his vision of economic development as his platform for success.

Coppage portrayal of Harmond Wilks is exquisite. Through his acting, you can see his transformation on stage from wanting to be elected, to a genuine caring for the people. The expression that Wilks has on stage as a young energetic candidate who has ideas that he believes are good for the community, but doesn’t understand the effect they could cause to other people.

Wilks business partner Roosevelt Hicks (Jerron O’Neal), and Mame Wilks, his wife and campaign manager (Aishah Ogbeh), are persistent in Wilks pushing the plan.

Roosevelt and Mame represent bougie black folks, who would rather coon for success than to fight for people who lack representation. The actors were able to portray these characters without being stereotypical “uppity negroes.”

The lower-class characters in the play who represent folks from the trenches were Sterling Johnson (Lewis Morrow) and Elder Joseph Barlow (Theodore Hughes). Johnson’s character of Morrow is a passionate black man, though often fearful. His passion became anger, and his words made it seem he was close to violence. However, Morrow is never afraid to be himself. He challenged fellow characters about how one can be educated but still not know what is right and wrong.

The dynamic between social class among races is expressed throughout the performance, as certain characters thought poorly of the others because of the part of the city they were from.

The character who brings a humorous persona to the play is Hughes’ portrayal of Barlow, an older black man, who had been living in the streets.

Barlow had philosophical, yet comical comments. The visualization of the monologues and stories by the character might express how gentrification would affect the community without necessarily saying it.

During the play, Barlow had a monologue about the flag which fit perfectly with the timing of what is currently happening with Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the flag because of police brutality and injustice of black people.

“Radio Golf” is a production that many people could still relate to today. Wilson’s dialogue for the play includes gentrification, social and education class and politics; all of which truly expressed.

(Photo courtesy of Broadway World) 

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