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FENCES Receives Rave Review from The Wall Street Journal

The first Broadway revival of August Wilson’s FENCES, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, opened to rave reviews on Monday night at the Cort Theatre. Below is the Wall Street Journal’s addition to the chorus of critical acclaim for the production, directed by Kenny Leon.

Cheers for Viola Davis – and August Wilson

By Terry Teachout
April 30, 2010

The star of a show doesn’t always get top billing. Denzel Washington is by far the biggest name associated with the first Broadway revival of August Wilson’s “Fences,” but my guess is that it’s Viola Davis whose performance is going to stick with you. Not that Mr. Washington is anything less than solid, but Ms. Davis is something else again. I knew she was a remarkable artist—anyone who saw her in the Off-Broadway premiere of Lynn Nottage’s “Intimate Apparel” or the film version of John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt” knows that—but what she’s doing this time around goes straight into my scrapbook of stage performances from which you learn how brutally true to life great acting can be.

First, though, a few words about “Fences,” the story of a retired Negro League baseball player (Mr. Washington) who, disappointed by a career that failed to measure up to his great expectations, seeks to soothe his hurt by cheating on his long-suffering wife (Ms. Davis). Written in 1983 and first seen on Broadway in 1987, “Fences” is one of the half-dozen finest American stage plays of the postwar era. Unlike the later, more long-winded works in Mr. Wilson’s 10-play “Pittsburgh cycle,” such as “King Hedley II” and “Radio Golf,” it steers clear of self-conscious sermonizing. What “Fences” has to say is shown, not told, and the aria-like speeches and monologues of the principal characters exist not to score debating points but to unmask their secret hearts.

It was Mr. Wilson’s special achievement to forge the everyday speech of working-class blacks into a language poetic enough to encompass tragedy. Time and again in “Fences” the actors utter sentences so pointed that they make you want to laugh out loud with delight: “I told him if he wasn’t the marrying kind, then move out the way so the marrying kind could find me.” “The only thing I knew was the time had come for me to leave my daddy’s house. And right there the world suddenly got big.”

Ms. Davis speaks her share of these sentences with relish, but she also makes us see their meaning. When Mr. Washington confesses that he has betrayed her, she appears to shrink before your eyes. “You telling your wife this?” she cries. “I have to wait 18 years to hear something like this?” Then her arms flail at random, as if she were a puppet whose strings had been clipped by despair.

To read the full review, click here.

In addition to Denzel Washington as Troy Maxson and Viola Davis as Rose Maxson, the cast features Chris Chalk as Cory, Stephen McKinley Henderson as Jim Bono, Russell Hornsby as Lyons, Mykelti Williamson as Gabriel, and with Eden Duncan-Smith and SaCha Stewart-Coleman alternating in the role of Raynell.
FENCES is produced by Carole Shorenstein Hays (who produced the original Broadway production) and Scott Rudin.  
The original Broadway production of FENCES opened on March 26, 1987 at the 46th Street Theatre (now the Richard Rodgers Theatre). FENCES was one of the most critically acclaimed and successful plays of the 1980s, winning four Tony Awards including Best Play, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, three Drama Desk Awards, including Best Play and the NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play.   

The production team includes Branford Marsalis (Original Music), Santo Loquasto (Set Design), Constanza Romero (Costume Design), Brian MacDevitt (Lighting Design), ACME Sound Partners (Sound Design).
Ticketing Information:
Tickets for FENCES are available by calling Telecharge.com at (212) 239-6200, (800) 432-7250 outside the NY metro area, online at Telecharge.com or in person at the Cort Theatre box office (138 West 48th Street).  Box office hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Tickets on Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday range in price from $61.50 to $121.50. Tickets on Friday, Saturday & Sunday range in price from $61.50 to $126.50.
Performance Schedule:
Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m., Wednesday & Saturday at 2:00 p.m. & Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
Added Performance: Monday, June 28th at 8 p.m.
No Performance: Sunday, July 4th at 3 p.m.

Follow FENCES on Twitter: @FencesBroadway 
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