Viola Davis joins Denzel Washington in 'Fences'

AP News
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Posted: Jan 05, 2010 10:12 PM

Oscar nominee Viola Davis will join Denzel Washington in the revival of August Wilson's "Fences," arriving on Broadway in April.

"Fences" will open April 26 at the Cort Theatre with preview performances beginning April 14, producers Carole Shorenstein Hays and Scott Rudin announced Tuesday. The production will be directed by Kenny Leon.

Davis will play Rose, a woman, who, according to the actress, "unknowingly gives up her dreams and her power for love." Washington _ winner of Academy Awards for "Training Day" and "Glory" _ will portray her husband, the patriarchal Troy Maxson. The pivotal role of their son is still to be cast.

In "Fences," Wilson "explores the life ... of the everyday man," Davis said in an interview. "But ... he places all of those struggles (within the context) of African-American men who also are facing the obstacle of race in America, which is a double whammy."

She said "Fences," part of Wilson's 10-play cycle about the black experience in 20th-century America, is also about the most basic of human issues: "hope, love, dreams, fatherhood and death."

Washington, who last appeared on Broadway in 2005 as Brutus in a revival of "Julius Caesar," said, "I met August Wilson at his home in Seattle on a rainy afternoon and it made a big impression on me. I asked him how he writes his plays and he said, 'I close my eyes and the characters start talking to me.'"

The actor said he remembered "just being blown away by James Earl Jones and Mary Alice in the original (1987) production," which won both the Tony Award for best play and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. It had the longest run of any Wilson play on Broadway, more than 500 performances.

Davis has appeared on Broadway in two Wilson plays _ "Seven Guitars" and "King Hedley II" _ and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in the film version of John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt." She won a featured-actress Tony Award in 2001 for her work in "King Hedley II."

"August would always sit in rehearsals with his eyes closed and his head down while the actors spoke," she said. "If you missed one word, his eyes would pop open, he would grab a script and look at it, then look at the actor and start pointing, 'Ah, you missed a word, you missed a line and messed up the whole rhythm.'"

"But if you got it right, you could see how he enjoyed it," she said. "It was like someone enjoying a great piece of music."

Wilson died of liver cancer in 2005.