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Feuding onstage is a first for duo

July 07, 2006|Mike Boehm | Times Staff Writer

Having excelled onscreen as Ike and Tina Turner, Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett will play fiercely battling spouses again -- this time onstage at the Pasadena Playhouse -- as Troy and Rose Maxson, the embittered ex-ballplayer and his wife at the heart of August Wilson's 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "Fences."

"Both of them have a tremendous devotion both to this play and to August, and they have cleared their schedules in order to make it happen," said Sheldon Epps, Pasadena Playhouse artistic director.

The show runs Sept. 1 to Oct. 1, with Epps directing. He says there have been discussions with producers interested in taking it to Broadway and London.

Fishburne, currently onstage at the Mark Taper Forum in Alfred Uhry's "Without Walls," made his Broadway debut in 1992 in Wilson's "Two Trains Running." Bassett appeared on Broadway in 1988 in Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone."

Besides earning best-actor and actress nominations as Ike and Tina in "What's Love Got to Do With It?," Fishburne and Bassett have appeared together as an estranged couple in "Boyz N the Hood" (1991) and in the recent release, "Akeelah and the Bee."

The two have never worked together on stage before, Epps said.

The production continues a Wilsonian summer in L.A. following the playwright's death at 60 on Oct. 2.

Two critically hailed small-theater stagings are underway -- "Fences" ends a two-month run at the Odyssey Theatre on Aug. 6, and "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" is at the Fountain Theatre through July 21.

Epps sees the Odyssey's "Fences" as a pump-primer rather than a competitor.

"It's a reminder that this is one of August's best plays, and even for those who have seen that, the thrill of seeing Laurence and Angela together is going to be hugely enticing."

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