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fences-on-broadway

From the NY Times:

When Denzel Washington talks about challenging death to a wrestling match, you suddenly sense that everything’s going to be all right. Not for Troy Maxson, the character portrayed by Mr. Washington in the vibrantly acted Broadway revival of August Wilson’s “Fences,” which opened on Monday night at the Cort Theater; Troy might as well have “Warning: Explosives” tattooed across his forehead, with “Breakable” stamped on his back.

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But all at once you feel that Mr. Washington is going to take Troy Maxson into dark and uncharted places, which is what he has to do for this mid-80’s play to register as more than a conventional domestic melodrama. Delivering that poetic riff, early in the first act, about going mano a mano with the grim reaper, Mr. Washington’s Troy morphs from the salty, genial everyman he’s thus far appeared to be into a much more arresting figure.

There’s an exhilarated craziness in his eyes and a confrontational glint that dares us not to believe him. On the subject of his own life, Troy — a former Negro League baseball star turned sanitation worker, and a man whose name aptly evokes a legendary, ruined splendor — is a first-class mythmaker. Which means he’s also a first-class storyteller and a first-class self-deceiver, and that we’re going to hang on to his words.

Mr. Washington, a two-time Oscar winner, has his own personal specter to wrestle with in this production, directed by Kenny Leon and featuring a magnificent performance by Viola Davis as Troy’s wife, Rose. By starring in the first Broadway revival of “Fences,” which picked up about every major prize on offer in 1987, when it arrived on Broadway, Mr. Washington is stepping into the outsize shadow of James Earl Jones.

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