S. African playwright Athol Fugard must be one heck of an optimist. The son of an Afrikaner mother and a father of Irish Huguenot descent, he began writing plays in 1959, plays that took direct exception to the bigotry and repression of the apartheid regime ruling S. Africa at the time. After his first play appeared in 1961, the South African government passed censorship laws that forbade racially mixed casts and/or audiences in theaters. When the English BBC broadcast that play in 1967 the South African government confiscated Fugard’s passport, and he was not allowed to leave the country until 1971. Rage could rightfully dominate his works. Instead, they are infused with a poignant poetry and compassionate portrayal of the human condition unmatched by many playwrights living today. Fugard’s plays explore the transcendent possibilities of the human soul and reflect his evident optimism about human potential. Optimism that has proven to be justified.
His play Master Harold…and the Boys, considered his best by many, made its premiere on Broadway in 1982. Among its awards were the 1982 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play, the 1983 London Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for Best Play, Leading African actor Zakes Mokae won the 1982 Tony Award for Featured Actor in a Play, and the play, itself, was nominated for best play at the 1982 Tony awards.
At the same time, Master Harold…and the Boys was banned from production in South Africa. Today South Africa is producing a filmed version of the play for 2010 release starring Freddie Highmore and Ving Rhames. The Emmy winning director Lonny Price, Master Harold in the original 1982 Broadway show, directs the film. Definite justification for Fugard’s optimism.
Metroplex audiences can see an exquisitely executed production of Master Harold …and the Boys right now—playing at the African American Repertory Theater in Desoto through November 1st.
Three characters lead desperately grim lives. Restraint and dignity crash into despondent rage and frustration, climaxing in an act of utter humiliation. Somehow love and hope redeem them all by simple acts: flying a kite…and by the transformational images conveyed of ballroom dancing, Fugard’s “world without collisions”. With subtle direction by Sharon Benge, the ensemble cast of William Bill Earl Ray, Andrew Bourgeois and Christopher Piper convey the dismal realities of each man’s existence, the dark anguish they each hold deep inside with barely containable restraint and the soul-healing power of love and forgiveness that lights the path to a peaceful, hate-free future.
When you go to this production, you will see one of the best-written plays by a living playwright today. And you will also see one of the finest performances in our metroplex for this year.
For tickets to Master Harold…and the Boys, call 972-572-0998 or visit African American Repertory Theater on-line. www.aareptheater.com
Buddy Meyers photo
L to R: Andrew Bourgeois, William Bill Earl Ray, Christopher Dontrell Piper