Friday, October 28, 2016

"Master Harold" ...and the Boys **** A

A superb revival of Athol Fugard’s 1992 masterpiece, directed by the playwright, is the latest offering at Signature Theatre. In this semi-autobiographical work, Fugard portrays a critical moment in the longtime relationship between Hally (Noah Robbins), a 17-year old Afrikaaner, and two black employees of his family’s business, the wise Sam (Leon Addison Brown) who has tried to be a mentor to Hally and the impulsive Willie (Sahr Ngaujah). Hally’s father, badly injured in WW II, is an alcoholic. His mother has been forced to be the family breadwinner, first by operating a boarding house, since then by running a tea room. The lonely, seething, embittered Hally has turned to Sam and Willie since early childhood for companionship. When a telephone call from his mother bodes ill for Hally’s future, he lashes out at the only people he feels any control over. There are lighter moments of Sam and Willie preparing for a dance contest and of Hally recollecting happier times, but the play builds inexorably to its lacerating climax. Every aspect of this production is top-notch. All three actors fully inhabit their roles, the realistic set by Christopher H. Barreca is excellent, Susan Hilferty’s costumes are fine and Fugard’s direction is, as one would expect, assured. I could quibble that the play’s metaphors are occasionally a bit heavy-handed, but it is indisputably a modern classic. I highly recommend seeing it. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes; no intermission.

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