August Wilson’s “Radio Golf” at A Noise Within

theatre review

PHOTO: Craig Schwartz | South Pasadenan News | Christian Telesmar and DeJuan Christopher in Radio Golf at A Noise Within.

A stirring production of “Radio Golf”, August Wilson’s final installment of his “American Century Cycle”, directed by Gregg T. Daniel, opened this weekend at A Noise Within. It’s 1997 in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, where nine of Wilson’s ten play cycle take place, and change is on the horizon for black mayoral candidate, Harmond Wilks. He’s a real estate developer who, along with his fellow Cornell educated golf buddy, Roosevelt Hicks, is waiting for their neighborhood to be designated “blighted” so they will receive federal funding to raze the area’s dilapidated homes and replace them with a multi-use complex with a Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, apartments and plenty of parking. They are two young, upper-middle class African American men on the rise with “nothing but blue skies” ahead of them.

PHOTO: Craig Schwartz | South Pasadenan News | DeJuan Christopher, Christian Telesmar, Matt Orduña in Radio Golf at A Noise Within.

Complications arise when Elder Joe Barlow claims ownership of a house scheduled to be razed, a house that has a long history in the community as the home of soul cleanser, Aunt Ester, and a mysterious connection to Wilks. With his ambitious wife, Mame, and Hicks pushing him to move forward and get rid of this problem, Wilks comes to a crossroads of history and his personal integrity verses the future and doing whatever it takes to get the elusive American dream.

PHOTO: Craig Schwartz | South Pasadena News | Sydney A. Mason in Radio Golf at A Noise Within.

Daniel, who also directed the past two Wilson pieces at ANW, “Gem of The Ocean” and “Seven Guitars”, has once again created a layered and deeply emotional piece delivered by a stellar cast. DeJuan Christopher, last seen by ANW audiences in “Seven Guitars”, crackles with charisma as Roosevelt Hicks and fills the stage with the verve and energy of a man who knows he’s on the verge of huge success. Sydney A. Mason, also last seen in “Seven Guitars”, brings a cool, crisp edge to Mame. Stunning in her designer suits, she envisions herself as the equally successful wife of a future mayor and beyond.

- Advertisement -

Alex Morris, who was in ANW’s “Gem of The Ocean” plays Elder Joe Barlow, or “old Joe”, a direct descendant of Aunt Mary and current owner of her house. He brings mystery and wisdom to the old man as well as a twinkle that garners many of the knowing laughs in the piece. It’s a soulful, poignant performance. Matt Orduña, last seen in MacBeth, is a powerhouse as the street smart handyman, Sterling Johnson, fighting for himself and the dignity of the shared history of his neighborhood.

PHOTO: Craig Schwartz | South Pasadenan News | Christian Telesmar, Matt Orduña, Alex Morris in Radio Golf at A Noise Within.

Daniel described the characters of Harmond Wilks and his wife “like the Obamas” and Christian Telesmar definitely exudes that Obama cool, calm and collected politician vibe through most of the first half of the play. But as his heart is pulled towards his own history and what he comes to see as morally right, Telesmar is riveting, building to an impassioned climactic scene with Hicks that is staggering. It is a nuanced and masterful performance.

What Wilks ultimately must answer for himself is whether forging a shiny, new future can come without sacrificing what he values and, more broadly, what the community values as a culture.

“Radio Golf” runs through November 13, 2020 at A Noise Within located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena. Post-performance conversations with the artists will take place on Friday, Oct. 28; Friday, Nov. 4; Friday, Nov. 11; and Sunday, Oct. 30. To purchase tickets and for more information, including up-to-date Covid-19 safety protocols on the date of each performance, call (626) 356-3100 or visit