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‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ Review: Boseman and Davis Energize a Faithful August Wilson Adaptation

‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ Review: Boseman and Davis Energize a Faithful August Wilson Adaptation

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” opens with a thundering blues performance and ends with a gut punch. Both moments inject fresh energy and righteous fury into the 1982 August Wilson play that launched his 10-part Pittsburgh Cycle, but in between, the movie hews to more familiar turf. , director George C. Wolfe’s reverential adaptation livens up the material with sizzling color and vivid closeups. Save for a few digressions, however, Wolfe and screenwriter Ruben Santiago-Hudson have put the play into the movie, rather than vice versa.

For Wilson devotees and newbies alike, that’s a sturdy enough combo to let this bittersweet ode to the Mother of Blues strut its stuff. The second adaptation of the Pittsburgh Cycle following Denzel Washington’s sturdy “Fences” treatment (he serves as a producer here), “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” embodies the frustrations of Black artists in a society rigged against them, with the boisterous singer and

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