Apartheid. One of South Africa’s stains on civil rights lasted for more than four decades, with consequences that penetrated its society deeper than what met the human eye. Fred Franklin, Artistic Director for The Rude Mechanicals, adapts his own melodramatic interpretation of “Master Harold”… and the Boys, illustrating how quickly bigotry can spread when the opportunity presents itself.
With servers Sam (Marcus Salley) and Willie (Roody Labaze) opening the first act, the audience is transported to a time where disparity was more than a reality, but a lifestyle. Speaking amongst themselves about emulating American culture through an upcoming dance competition, the two are caught up in a conversation that appears to be trivial; yet, before the significance of the topic is divulged, Hally (Matt Zimmerman) enters from a rough day at school.
Upon first glance, you can’t decipher how old Hally is until he opens his mouth as thoughts about homework, exams, and scientific misappropriations are jovially discussed between he and father-like figure Sam. However, there is something brewing beneath the surface.
When Sam relays a message from Hally’s mother, the excited chatter turns into nervousness and anger. It is at that point we learn about a crippled father in the hospital, a weak-minded mother who is limited in her ability to control the situation, and a young boy who is confused about exactly who he is.
“Master Harold” … and the Boys
by Athol Fugard
at Gallery – Goethe Institut
812 7th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Details and tickets
Granted, the actors’ are superb in their delivery; nonetheless, the ending leaves one incomplete. When Willie and Sam begin to dance again, it is clear this is their way of dealing with the oppression so easily bestowed upon them, even by those whom they cherish. The relationship between Sam and Hally who suddenly becomes “Master Harold,” is one that is difficult to explain. Unless you’ve had a nanny or someone who has stepped in as a parental figure, how could you understand the distraught feeling experienced by both men?
Though his love never wavered for Sam, Hally’s subconscious submission to his father’s prejudice proved to be more than either could bare but something each was willing to acknowledge with the hope to repair the relationship both so equally adored.