The blue music of “Fences” sings with a ferocious beauty in Denzel Washington’s long-in-coming adaptation of August Wilson’s masterpiece of African-American survival and sorrow.
Transfers from stage to screen often serve up only a pale reflection of the electric, live-wire theater experience. But Washington, in his good sense, has neither strained to make August’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play particularly cinematic nor to “open it up” much from the confines of the staged settings.
What we have, instead, is a meat-and-potatoes drama, delivered with full-bodied, powerhouse performances and an attuned ear to the bebop rhythms of Wilson’s dense, musical dialogue. The 1957-set “Fences” surely doesn’t call for anything like a Stanley Kubrick treatment. Just give us the words and the people, with passion.
“Death ain’t nothing but a fastball on the outside corner,” says Troy Maxson (Washington), a 53-year-old garbage man in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Primarily from the hemmed-in backyard of his brick house he pours forth a torrent of rage, bitterness, pride and anguish.
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