Theater Review: Radio Golf at Chicago’s Goodman

August Wilson’s 10-play cycle ended with Radio Golf, written in 2005, shortly before his death.

Every work has been performed at the Goodman, and we have been privileged to have seen them all. Artistic Director Robert Falls says, “More than any other writer of his generation, August Wilson transformed contemporary theater with a unique blend of poetry, music, storytelling and mysticism. His death robbed the American theater of a truly monumental artist, and the Goodman of a longtime friend and collaborator.”

The audience reaction to Radio Golf is also a tribute to an exceptional playwright. Constant applause gives recognition to every aspect of the work. Set in Pittsburgh, Wilson’s hometown, where all of his plays take place, it is the last decade of the 20th century, and Harmond Wilks, Hassan El-Amin and his associate, Roosevelt Hicks, James A. Williams, are in the process of redevelopment. The old neighborhood, the depressed Hill District, is being demolished, and high-rise condos, Starbucks, World Foods and Barnes & Noble, all the signs of gentrification, are appearing.

Mame Wilks, Michole Briana White, Harmond’s wife, is running his campaign for mayor. She represents the young, ambitious professional eager to move up in the world of business and politics.

Sterling Johnson, John Earl Jelks, is a character recognizable from Wilson’s earlier works. Born and raised on the Hill, he is someone who retains the values of the old neighborhood.

Also from the past is Elder Joseph Barlow, Anthony Chisolm. Having previously appeared at the Goodman in Gem of the Ocean and Two Trains Running, he is the connection between the world of Aunt Esther, the 329-year-old woman who is the storyteller narrating the history of slavery in America, and the present destruction of her home on the hill.

Wilson is a master of the emotional turmoil that African-Americans suffer as the result of slavery and white domination. The final scenes of the play are graphic in their anger and the injustice suffered by an entire people. The audience responded.

Radio Golf plays through Feb. 18, and opening Jan. 29 in the Owen Theatre is Congo Square’s production of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. For tickets to both of these plays, call (312) 443-3800.

Congratulations to the Goodman for their constant support and recognition of August Wilson and his fine work.

From the Feb. 14-20, 2007, issue

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