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August Wilson's 'Fences' now at Syracuse Stage

"Fences" runs through May 30th at Syracuse Stage's Archbold Theatre.

It's a line that's quoted often from August Wilson's "Fences," and it comes early in the first scene. It's Pittsburgh, 1957, and trash collector Troy Maxson (James A. Williams in the Syracuse Stage production) and his long-time friend Jim Bono (William Hall, Jr.) are sharing a payday bottle in the yard. Bono has queried Troy about a woman named Alberta he's seen Troy joking with and, though Troy denies he'd risk his marriage, they get to riffing on Alberta's legs. She is apparently heavy-set, but Troy -- forgetting his cautious stance and lapsing into his more mischievous, extravagant self -- says vividly that legs don't matter much anyhow. "You just push them out of the way. The hips cushion the ride!"

In what seems a split second later, Troy's wife Rose (a terrific Kim Staunton, who fully holds her own) comes out the kitchen door onto the porch and into the yard. Not missing a beat Troy tells her to go on back in -- he says they're engaged in "man talk," that he'll "have some talk for you later -- you know what kind I mean."

Perhaps I was primed for this whole exchange. Not ten minutes before this, I sat in the balcony at Syracuse Stage and engaged in some woman talk myself -- to wit, the sheer pleasure of watching Denzel walk away in every movie of his I've seen. Denzel Washington, as everybody reading this surely knows, is starring in the 13-week Broadway revival of "Fences" that opened April 25th. That production is now vying for ten Tony awards, with four more nominations than the first Broadway production got in 1987 (which also won Wilson his first Pulitzer plus a bunch of other prizes), and it's launched a flurry of reviews and discussion of both the play and Wilson's work.

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