Through September 10
“MASTER HAROLD”…AND THE BOYS/b> Court House Theatre/Shaw Festival
The fault line of history runs across the Court House Theatre stage.
Unfortunately, that’s also theatrical history.
“Master Harold”…and The Boys”/b> is a play from 1982 as history changed in South Africa.
It was a near-revolutionary look at an Apartheid society as that society fell apart.
Playwright Athol Fugard says this particular script is based on a real incident from his own youth.
He’s the troubled adolescent who has been kept afloat by a Black man who works in his family’s restaurant.
It was a borderline master/slave relationship, not that far from American society not all that many years before.
Master Harold or Hally (James Daly) has come in to the family public park restaurant near Port Elizabeth.
Staffed by Willie (Allan Louis) and Sam (André Sills).
They are intensely interested in a coming ballroom dancing competition Willie is planning to enter.
Of course, he may not have a partner since she is appropriately slinking around on him, possibly because Willie routinely beats her.
Hally walks into the middle of this, assuming the superior role of a slave owner.
His mom is at the hospital dealing with his severely crippled father.
Hally has been raised by Sam and later also by Willie but doesn’t recognize the power relationship.
Hally knows some of the rules of Apartheid but doesn’t quite understand how badly he treats Sam and Willie.
This leaves him free to mistreat Sam and Willie and for them to accept it because that’s the way of things.
Until, until Hally goes too far and it all blows up and destroying the man and boy relationship and it will never recover.
Time has passed much of this 90-minute play by because we know so much more about Apartheid South Africa.
This is a troubled adolescent with an attitude and ignorance and Sam gives him a chance to take it back and he sees no reason why.
That’s when the play tightens and it flashes forward to social attitudes here and cross-racial relationships.
Allan Louis is perfectly fine as the ballroom dance-obsessed Willie.
But, it’s Sills’ Sam who dominates this show as the surrogate father who is rejected in the time of crisis.
He delivers a great performance.
Daly starts much more slowly, almost inaudible in a role which starts as a downer and gets worse as his life falls apart and his troubled real and surrogate families crumble.
“Master Harold”…and The Boys” is getting a good production, benefiting from Philip Akin’s direction and Valerie Moore’s choreography, as well as Peter Hartwell’s design.
At the same time, it’s very uncomfortable, partially because of the way Hally treats his mother in their phone conversations and his tangled phone call with his father.
Partially, it’s really uncomfortable for the way this kid treats two adult men because he’s White and they aren’t.
It is worth seeing this slightly archaic piece of theater because of Sills’ performance but also because the attitudes can be very present day America, staged in Canada.
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