I saw the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company production of Athol Fugard's landmark play Master Harold... and The Boys at a matinee on Sept. 1. It is this years traveling production that will come to the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, Oct. 5, at 8 p.m.
A good friend of mine calls this play the greatest play of the second half of the 20th century, and I tend to agree. The only play that has as great an impact as Fugard's play for me is Ibsen's Doll House, each shattering an audience with its unexpected and life-altering denouement. Nothing is ever the same again. Ever.
It is a play that basically dwells on father-son relationships and on rites of passage. Despite the fact that it comes from the point in history where apartheid was at its worst, despite the fact that apartheid makes up the outer wrapping of the play, both of which could lead one to misread the play. If one misreads it to that extent, one has failed to see Fugard's raison d'괲e for the play. Based as it is on Fugard's recollections of particular incidents in his life, and his relationship with a particular black person who befriended him as he was growing up, it is much more a personal exploration of eternal themes. While there is no question that the politics of apartheid informs the background of the play, just as in Romeo and Juliet a family feud of longstanding is background only, in neither case are the politics front and center. It seems to be, it appears to be but in actuality it would date the play, and as it is currently constructed, it will have a longevity based on the truth of its human emotional content alone.
The production is typical of the best that the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company has to offer. This set is simplicity itself, it contains every visual necessity that the script requires, yet it transcends all of this as the three actors make use of it. The direction by Hal Brooks is spot on. The production team of Wilson Chin, Kirche Leigh Zeile, Stuart Duke, and Kimberly Fuhr have given the actors just what they need, a Tiffany setting for their diamond-hard, multi-faceted performances. Tesha Bush is the dance coach for this production, and Patricia Norcia the dialect coach.