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Monday, November 17, 2014

Mastering “Harold”

From the Theater Vault Dept.: Whatever voice I’ve developed as a critic was developed in full view of my readers. These pieces, from the infancy of that career, haven’t gotten much past the thumb-sucking stage. Nice to note that the cast of Capital Rep’s “Master Harold” has gone on t significant careers: Corey Parker has been seen in “Nashville” and “Will and Grace”; Basil A. Wallace has done “West Wing” and “CSI” among many other TV shows, while Lou Ferguson is known for his appearance in the movie “Maid in Manhattan as well as appearances on “Law & Order.”


IN ATHOL FUGARD’S “Master Harold” ... and the boys, young Hally observes that he “os-killates between hope and despair,” which is a good reflection of the playwright’s state of mind, speaking of the human condition in general and very specifically about South Africa’s policy of apartheid.

Corey Parker and Lou Ferguson
The very tone of the play similarly “os-killates,” beginning with a most casual and seemingly irrelevant exchange between two black South Africans, Sam and Willie, about an upcoming dance contest and continuing into an alternately funny and poignant series of confrontations with the “Master Harold” of the title.

Fugard wove a fabric that is worn successfully only by skilled actors, and Capital Repertory’s current production showcases the considerable skill of three.

Corey Parker, as the boy whose friendship with his servants eventually reveals the bigotry he has been bred to believe in, has all the jauntiness of a 17-year-old who thinks he knows It all. He’s grateful for the friendship he has with the two older men, yet tries to conceal it with a series of masks of superiority.

Basil A. Wallace, as Willie, plays a man who knows his place and covers his discomfort. He’s not as articulate as his friend Sam, but has an eagerness to please.

Lou Ferguson plays Sam; the role is so strongly associated with Zakes Mokae, who created It, that it’s hard not to compare them. Mokae played it with great dignity and a rich, mellifluous voice. Ferguson’s Sam seems more of a commoner: wise, but the wisdom is more obviously that of experience and not the education he’s absorbed through studies with Hally.

Rick Dennis provided a splendidly realistic set of a tearoom in 1950, although he and director Bruce Bouchard run into some difficulty with a couple of poles that support what looks like an indoor awning of some sort; the bisecting of Sam or Hally, which occurs from time to time, doesn’t seem to serve a dramatic function.

Another problem lies in the placement of the characters, particularly Sam. During some of the more significant lines he’s too often left downstage, speaking over his shoulder.

There is a lot of dancing and it’s elegantly performed, choreographic credit for which goes to Constance Valis Hill.

“Master Harold”... and the boys is a high point in the current Cap Rep season, and must be seen by anyone who appreciates theater with a social conscience.


THE FIFTH OF JULY is the second play of Lanford Wilson’s Lebanon, Missouri, trilogy. It studies the effects of, among other things, the Vietnam War upon members of the Talley family.

The Cast of Fifth of July
In the SUNYA theater department production, the cast is made up of students of roughly the same age as the characters were those few years prior to being caught in the middle of the war. The characters have lost that college brashness. The students who played them haven’t, and the detachment is missed.

William Salzman, as Ken Talley, has all the necessary bitchiness without the attitude of having been disappointed so often that there’s no use in aspiring to anything more. John Fox, as his lover, Jed, seems just plain uncomfortable. Not that these are bad performances – they simply lack depth. Trudi Beckerich, as the aged Sally Talley, is, however, much too young-seeming, while Rebecca Weitman has to fight the specter of Swoozie Kurtz, who was able to make sense out of Gwen’s seeming disconnectedness. Thus it is that Randy Rozier’s performance, as John, stands out as being one wholly in agreement with the character he’s portraying.

William Leone, the director, moved his people well but sluggishly: the costumes and set were very appealing.

Metroland Magazine, 14 March 1985

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