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Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in August Wilson's "Fences" at the Cort Theatre
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Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in August Wilson's "Fences" at the Cort Theatre

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Carole Shorenstein Hays and Scott Rudin

Denzel Washington
(Fences Website)
By August Wilson
(August Wilson Bio)

At the
Cort Theatre
138 West 48th Street

Starring Viola Davis
Chris Chalk, Eden Duncan-Smith,
Stephen McKinley Henderson, Russell Hornsby,
SaCha Stewart-Coleman, Mykelti Williamson

Directed by Kenny Leon
Original Music by Branford Marsalis
Set Design: Santo Loquasto
Costume Design: Constanza Romero
Lighting Design: Brian MacDevitt
Sound Design: Acme Sound Partners
Casting: MelCap Casting
Production Stage Manager: Narda E. Alcorn
Press Representative: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
General Management:
Stuart Thompson Productions/David Turner
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Associate Producer: Constanza Romero

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 12, 2010

Viola Davis, as Rose, Troy Maxson's (Denzel Washington) loyal wife, has a heart of gold. In tonight's performance, the audience communally moaned, when Troy's marital flaws were revealed, and Ms. Davis' searing and soulful soliloquy, at the crossroads of their marriage, gripped this vocal crowd. August Wilson's Fences portrays a 1957 Pittsburgh couple, who seesaw between flirtatious comfort and fiery rage. They live with their son, Cory (Chris Chalk), an aspiring football champ, with Troy's son from an earlier marriage, Lyons (Russell Hornsby), stopping by for cash and food, when the going gets tough. Troy's buddy, Jim Bono (Stephen McKinley Henderson), who works with Troy in the Sanitation Department, sees and knows all, a muscular man, a quasi-Greek Chorus of one. Troy's backyard and porch also welcome his mentally disabled brother, Gabriel, a pathetic, spiritual character, who seems unwittingly to protect Troy from himself. Filling out the ensemble are Eden Duncan-Smith and SaCha Stewart-Coleman, characters that arrive late in the story.

Mr. Washington is one of the most riveting, charismatic, bold, and confident actors I've seen in some time. His very presence onstage, throughout most of this two-act play, added steel and vitality as the action burst forth. He did not seem to have memorized his lines, but to be, rather, speaking from his conflicted soul. Mr. Washington cradled Rose in his arms with the same level of passion he exuded in telling Bono about his new lover. Ms. Davis, likewise, transforms before our eyes, in her homemaker apron and tired gestures, from Troy's girlish bed partner to Troy's scorned wife. This transformation is a study in incomparable dramatic talent, and she sucked the air out of the theatre in her angst-filled outrage. Another expansive character is Cory, whose disappointments are often the result of his father's own bitter obsessions (Troy had a promising start in baseball, but race had thwarted fate); Chris Chalk presents Cory with poignant inner strength. Mr. Henderson is the kind of friend we'd all like to have, who had Troy's back and tried to help him survive.

Mykelti Williamson, as the vulnerable wanderer, Gabriel, elicited those paternal instincts in Troy that seemed to elude Cory. Russell Hornsby, as the free-loading Lyons, revealed his own vulnerability beneath the swagger. Branford Marsalis' original music is award-worthy on its own, a period styled jazz score, that sets the mood at each scene shift and curtain. Santo Loquasto is a wizard of design, with his iconic small home, back yard, tree, porch, and, yes, those fences. Brian MacDevitt keeps the lighting shaded and natural, while Constanza Romero's 50's costumes authentically signal the era. Kenny Leon's direction maximizes each moment with impassioned monologues and crackling chemistry. Troy's private discourse, about confronting the angel of death, was a tour de force performance, while Troy and Rose's marital struggle reached deep into everyone present. August Wilson wrote about everyman, and this audience was audibly engrossed. Kudos to August Wilson.

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at