Denzel & Barbra: Too Old For These Roles?

New York Post theater columnist Michael Riedel, who lives to stir the shit, says that Denzel Washington, who is superb in the current movie “Flight,” is returning to Broadway in a revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s “Raisin in the Sun.” Supposedly, he will play the character Walter Lee Younger, made famous in a film version by Sidney Poitier. The Younger character is in his mid-30s; Denzel is 58. If this happens, it will be a travesty — no matter how many tickets it sells. This casting would be even worse than Barbra Streisand playing Mama Rose in a movie version of “Gypsy”: at least the movies have technical tricks to lessen the appearance of an actor’s age. I’m sure that Denzel’s defenders would reply that the stage doesn’t have close-ups to expose the age, so what’s the problem? The problem is that the matter of casting an actor in the range of a character’s age is becoming a joke: when actors are made obsolete by holograms I guess I won’t have to address this issue any longer. A final point to the people who say that Denzel should do a new play and portray someone closer to his own age: we’ve learned from this season on Broadway that stars in new plays aren’t always box-office gold. Audiences want a tried-and-true classic for their celebrities. But there are plenty of classics for Denzel to choose from besides “Raisin in the Sun.”

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