Seat Filler: NYC Theater Guide for May 2010
BY Brandon Voss
May 04 2010 1:00 PM ET
Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, Fences, a 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning part of August Wilson’s decade-by-decade cycle chronicling the 20th century African-American experience, centers on Troy Maxson, a hot-tempered trash collector and former Negro Leagues baseball player who tests his marriage when he fathers a daughter with another woman who dies in childbirth. It’s neither a comedy nor a soapy melodrama, but try telling that to audiences at the Cort Theater, where Broadway’s first Fences revival runs through July 11. Blame Kenny Leon’s broad direction or Tyler Perry’s cultural influence, but just don’t fault explosive star Denzel Washington — who confidently fills the shoes of Broadway’s original Troy, James Earl Jones — or Doubt’s devastating Viola Davis, who once again proves she’s queen of the snot-nosed sob as Troy’s suffering wife.
Though I still couldn’t care less about the controversial 2001 collapse of Enron, a Texas-based energy company, I do have a better understanding of the facts and figures after seeing Enron, Lucy Prebble’s hit West End play with music now at the Broadhurst Theatre. It’s serious business for sure, but Prebble employs a lot of funny business — including an awkward bromance between CEO Jeffrey Skilling and CFO Andy Fastow — to make her points about corporate greed and corruption. Dumbing down the complicated details, her ham-fisted metaphors sometimes come to life, like dinosaur-headed creatures embodying debt-eating substructures, but the scenes most deeply steeped in realism prove most effective. Maybe Prebble should’ve sheathed silly visuals like light sabers and taken a more straightforward Frost/Nixon approach to the history.
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