Review

Fugard's most personal play about apartheid

Apr 12 2012
Hap Erstein | Palm Beach Post

South African playwright Athol Fugard has spent most of his career spinning dramatic metaphors about the consequences of apartheid – the policy of racial discrimination that tragically divided his nation. His ability to capture the human toll of that systemic blight with just a few characters is artfully demonstrated in Master Harold...and the boys, which Fugard considers his most personal theatrical statement. Although only 90 minutes long, Master Harold is not an easy play to sit through... But your patience will ultimately be rewarded at Palm Beach Dramaworks, where director William Hayes' production opened last weekend. He has a trio of first-rate actors who inhabit these roles so totally, which makes their eventual confrontation all the more painful, and effective. ...Reprising a role he undertook eight years ago at GableStage, Paul Bodie centers the production as Sam, projecting palpable strength without ever raising his voice. For most of the evening he is affable, offering tips to Willie for his upcoming dance competition or verbally sparring with Hally over the boy's homework assignment. But when provoked, Bodie's Sam shows a steely anger that is undeniable. McGuire methodically measures out the arc of Hally's temper flare... he handles the role's substantial verbal demands well. As Willie, Summer Hill Seven is often silent on the edges of the stage and the action, but the authenticity he brings to the supporting character draws our eye to him. Michael Amico's tea room set – complete with constant rain in the background – is another triumph for his unerring eye for detail. With Master Harold...and the boys, Dramaworks begins an exploration of the murky issue of race, perhaps the first of many hard-edged works by Fugard, the theatrical poet of apartheid.