Theater-whores Milton and I are both devotees of the playwright August Wilson, who wrote an extraordinary body of work in a life that was cut too short at age 60 in 2005. When we heard last year that Denzel Washington was set to star in the first Broadway revival of Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, Fences, we were determined to pounce the second tickets went on sale. For a moment I feared our chance to snag a pair of these precious ducats might have entered the ether. On January 20th, when tickets first went on sale, I wrote Milton the following email:
I hate Time Warner [my cable company]. For the past 35-40 minutes I’ve only had sporadic Internet access so it’s been impossible for me to scope out the seating situation for Fences. This is extremely frustrating. Previews begin in April, and it runs for 14 weeks, closing July 11th. Tix go on sale to the general public on Jan 30th. Only Amex card members are eligible to buy them now. Orch seats are $121.50 plus we’re going to get hammered with fees. Aisle seats do not seem to be available. Forgot about buying tix at the b.o. to escape getting hammered with fees. They don’t go on sale there until March 17th, so it looks to me that if we’re going to see this play, we have to pay the equivalent of an airfare. As I mentioned on the phone DW’s co-star is Viola Davis and it’s playing at the Cort (currently running A View From the Bridge — I heard from Albee, he sat in the last row of the balcony and paid $36.50). So … thoughts?
Oy vey! Thanks to Massachusetts, health care is screwed like a two dollar hooker!
Actually, in-between those two emails, my Internet access returned, and we were able to get incredible second row center orchestra seats for the Wednesday matinee performance on June 30th, a day we both skipped out on work. Since my boss, Elsbeth, saw it in previews, she was annoyed that I had not seen it sooner for she was eager to discuss it. She loved it.
Fences is a powerful play set in 1957 Pittsburgh about Troy Maxon, a star in baseball’s Negro Leagues, who was born too early to make the transition to the Major League and is now a hard-headed 53-year-old sanitation worker who is a supreme teller of tall tales. Troy has been married 18 years to Rose, his devoted wife and mother of their 17-year-old son, Cory, who is being scouted by football recruiters. Troy has a contentious relationship with his son, and he adamantly opposes Cory pursuing sports. Troy has transformed himself into a pillar of responsibility after serving time and meeting Rose, but in the riveting second act he takes a hard fall from grace that tests his wife and estranges him from his son.
As tempting as it is to reveal spoilers about this beautifully written play especially since the remainder of the run is essentially sold out (unless you can afford a king’s ransom for the few premium priced tickets that might still be available), now that it has won the Tony award this season for Best Revival, Actor and Actress, I’ll resist. Both Denzel Washington and Viola Davis were magnificent. How they can play those roles eight times a week is amazing, but I suppose that’s what brilliant acting is all about.
After the final curtain, since we were sitting so far in the front and we did not want to follow the slow moving herd that were taking forever to get out the door, we wandered near the foot of the stage and spoke to a stagehand. He told us that he was sad to see this show close on July 11th, even though the theater will not be dark long. Time Stands Still starring Laura Linney will open next. If you’re part of this great production, it’s easy to understand why he’s feeling wistful. It certainly was a privilege to be among the lucky ones that got to see it during this much too short run.
Embedded below are some YouTube clips from Fences. The montage in the fourth clip features a sample of the lively jazz composed by Wynton Marsalis for this production.