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Denzel Washington Returning To Broadway In 'A Raisin In The Sun' Revival? No 'Othello'?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act December 28, 2012 at 10:16AM

Things that make you go hmm... this doesn't make a lot of sense to me, if it's true. 
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Denzel Washington

Things that make you go hmm... this doesn't make a lot of sense to me, if it's true. 

The New York Post is reporting that Denzel Washington will play Walter Lee Younger in a 2014 Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, to be directed by Kenny Leon, who, by the way, also directed Washington in Fences (2010), for which he won a Tony Award.

Scott Rudin will produce.

I say it doesn't make a lot of sense to me, because, Denzel is a bit too old to play the character, isn't he? 

I don't think we're ever told exactly how old Walter Lee Younger is in Hansberry's work (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about that), but I do know that his younger sister, Beneatha Younger, is a college student in her early 20s. While there certainly are families in which there's a significant age difference between oldest and youngest, this particular age difference will be a bit too much. Denzel is 57 years old. Yes, I suppose he could play younger, but I don't think he'd pass for a 30-something year old man, which is about how old Sidney Poitier was when he originated the role in 1960 (he was 33 years old). 

Unless, of course, all of this is moot and the team behind the production plans to take creative liberties with the story, which certainly won't be a first. Kenny Leon did cast 63-year-old Samuel L. Jackson to play 39-year-old Martin Luther King Jr in Katori Hall's The Mountaintop a year ago.

Recall the November Charlie Rose interview we posted, in which Denzel Washington (while plugging Flight) revealed that he was planning a return to the Broadway stage in 2014, with Leon directing and Rudin producing.

He said Rudin and Leon had already decided on what the play will be; but hadn't quite made up his own mind yet as to whether the play they'd chosen was one he'd like to do.

I started to speculate, but then remembered that earlier this year, in February, we dug up a profile of Denzel while he was plugging Safe House, in the UK, which included a statement that the actor was "showing no signs of slowing down, with talk of him starring in Othello with Al Pacino."

Denzel played Othello on stage in college many years ago at Fordham University, so this won't be foreign territory for him, this time teaming up with Al Pacino as Iago.

So I figured that might be the play that Rudin and Leon had already settled on; although, if the New York Post is correct, it's not. Maybe Othello is what Denzel would rather do, instead of what Rudin and Leon want him to do.

For a number of years now, Pacino has been interested in producing the Shakespearean tragedy, with him playing Iago; most recently, in 2010, while doing press for The Merchant Of Venice on Broadway, in which he played Shylock, he had this to say to the New York Times: "I once talked to Denzel Washington about doing Othello. I turned down Iago in the past because I thought there was a banality to Iago. Time has passed, and I have read the play again and again and found a way in... Now I want to do it."

So... connect the dots...

I'd say that a pairing of Pacino and Washington on stage in a Shakespeare work will likely be THE friggin' hottest ticket in town, or at least on Broadway, if it ever does happen, and you may as well put Denzel's name up there for another Tony Award as well.

To be frank, I think I'd probably rather see that over Denzel in A Raisin In The Sun, in part because it was recently on Broadway, in 2004, with Sean Combs (for some reason) playing Walter Lee Younger, Audra McDonald as his wife Ruth Younger, Phylicia Rashad as mama Lena Younger, and Sanaa Lathan as Beneatha.

If 2014 is the premiere date Rudin and Leon are aiming for, that would make it just 10 years after the last revival. Too soon, isn't it?

But maybe it's a completely different work which we'll find out about eventually; maybe Oprah Winfrey's waiting for him, and we'll see him and Oprah in a play together! Imagine that! She recently reiterated her Broadway plans (although she hasn't revealed what work she'll be bringing to the stage) - plans she first revealed about a-year-and-a-half ago.

This article is related to: Denzel Washington, Kenny Leon


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