Critical Overview

Critical response to Radio Golf comes with a lot of baggage. It played regionally for nearly two years before its Broadway run, its playwright died shortly after completing the work, and it is the final work in a ten-play cycle that had been consistently praised for its ambition and scope. Virtually every review of the play makes concessions based on Wilson’s legacy and the strength of some of his earlier plays. On the positive side, Wilson is complimented for neatly tying Radio Golf to earlier works through recurring places (Aunt Ester’s house, featured in Gem of the Ocean, the first play of the cycle chronologically) and characters (Sterling Johnson appears as a much younger man in Two Trains Running). Critics also hailed the unabashed bite of Wilson’s direct attack on racial issues (particularly the barbed confrontation between Sterling and Roosevelt). What the critics found lacking was the mystique and poetry of some of the cycle’s earlier plays. Some also faulted Mame and Harmond for being too bland to anchor a play. In the end, Radio Golf cannot escape its history any more than its characters can.