By Howard Pousner
The reviews of the Broadway revival of “Fences,” starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis and directed by Atlantan Kenny Leon, are in and mostly favorable. Here’s a roundup:
>Washington’s “Troy, not unexpectedly, is smaller than [James Earl] Jones’ was, but that also means it is on a more human scale and in some ways more intricately drawn.
“Mr. Leon’s expertly fluid direction [can’t] quite disguise the artificial overuse of some fairly tired symbolic motifs, including baseball and the fences of the title. But there are scenes as vivid and heartfelt as any on Broadway now.” — Ben Brantley, The New York Times
>“Washington, last on Broadway in 2005 in a production of ‘Julius Caesar,’ acquits himself well in this blistering revival, directed with a sure, steady hand by [August] Wilson veteran Kenny Leon. It’s a big, bold performance in a big, bold play, rife with emotion-drenched soliloquies for its star about life, love, death and the devil.” — Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press
>“When performed by actors who want to savor every realistic detail, ‘Fences’ can drag interminably. Leon’s highly efficient staging — arrayed on Santo Loquasto’s crisply focused yard set, where a fence is slowly being built — resolves to avoid this trap. The dialogue is swiftly delivered, and self-indulgent pauses are banished. Blink and you can miss a line. And be sure to buckle up as Washington revs his motor for Troy’s tall tales.” — Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times
>“Washington never lets you forget you’re watching him act. That fact is amplified by director Kenny Leon’s tendency to overemphasize the play’s inherent soapiness. Lines are underlined and spelled out in capital letters. It doesn’t draw you in to Wilson’s characters but builds a fence between you and them.” — Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News
>“Beautifully directed by Kenny Leon.
“Washington has the challenge on stage of acting opposite Davis. As Meryl Streep found out in the film of ‘Doubt,’ you have to be on top of your game with this performer or you will be left inhaling dust. Like this production at its best, she is an attractive combination of tough and tender.” — Brendan Lemon, Financial Times (London)
>“Leon and Washington have hit a collective home run.” — Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune
>“Six years ago, gifted director Kenny Leon delivered a fine production of ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ to Broadway, marred only by the stage inexperience of its bankable star, Sean Combs. Back with another classic chronicling the African-American experience, and this time with the right star in place, Leon knocks it out of the park.” — Erik Haagensen, Backstage
>“Washington’s Troy, while vigorous and charismatic, isn’t long on nuance; and in that sense it is of a piece with the staging. Directed by Kenny Leon, an experienced and astute purveyor of Wilson’s work, this ‘Fences’ makes the characters’ struggles briskly accessible and absorbing, but doesn’t always capture their depth and resonance.” — Elysa Gardner, USA Today
>For AJC reviewer Wendell Brock’s previously published review, go to accessatlanta.com.