“‘Master Harold’ … and the Boys”, written by Athol Fugard, is the most personal of his works, stemming from a childhood incident that haunted him and later became the inspiration for this play. The play which was first produced at the Yale Repertory Theater in 1982 not only depicts the incident from Fugard’s past but also portrays an experience that is relatable by universal humanity. The focus of Fugard’s works on the injustice brought about by apartheid meant most of his earlier works were presented to small audiences to avoid government attention. “’Master Harold’ …and the Boys” was banned by the South African government, but enjoyed massive success on Broadway and in the main cities such as London. The play is considered one of Frugard’s most skillful works (Pavis et.al, 2008)
The three-character play, here directed by Mr. Fugard himself and featuring Leon Addison Brown, Sahr Ngaujah, and Noah Robbins opened on Monday, November 7, 2016, at the Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St. Midtown West. It opened to a cathartic reception at a time when systemic racism and discrimination have once again become a topic of discussion in America (Behan, 56). Sitting among an almost equal proportion of both black and white audience facing a stage designed as a tea room with the words “St. George’s Park Tearoom” branded against what would be the shop’s window, there was no mistaking that the ominous pelt of the rain was indicative of an emotional show.[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
The play is set in 1950, in a simple tea shop located in the town of Port Elizabeth. Sam (Leon Addison Brown), a middle-aged man of about 40 years or so, works as a waiter and dons a waiter’s uniform and has a co-worker. Willie (Sahr Ngaujah), who is in his 40s as well, does the most handy work for which he has dressed accordingly in dowdy brown attire and an apron. The two are black while 17-year-old Hally (Noah Robbins), the tea shop owners’ son, is white. He walks in from school on a rainy afternoon and cheerfully greets Sam and Willie. The relationship between the three seems to be a warm one, despite Willie referring to Hally as Master Hally while Sam refers to the boy only by his name. Hally’s cheerful demeanor is changed by the news that his mother has left for the hospital to bring home his father whom Hally has an apparent dislike for. In the ensuing scene, Willie throws a rag at Sam, and it accidentally hits Holly who immediately reprimands Willie telling him to “cut the nonsense and get on with his work” and for Sam to “quit fooling around.” The seemingly warm relationship is now dictated by the color of their skin, which allows a 17-year-old boy to talk down to older men, who are not his peers. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Despite this, Sam has a fatherly accord with Hally, especially in a scene where they recall a day shared flying a kite. Hally complains about being punished at school but is shocked by Sam’s description of police brutality, particularly, being canned by the officers. This shows another aspect of racial discrimination much relevant to current times. Hally’s conscience tells him that this is morally wrong, which he voices by saying “I oscillate between hope and despair for this world as well, Sam, but things will change…One day somebody is going to get up and give history a kick up the backside (Behan, 2012)”
Mr. Brown delivers an understated yet immensely moving performance depicting Sam who despite being uneducated, flips through Halley’s books and marvels at the world he doesn’t know. He underscores his moral intelligence yet shows dignity and compassion by putting up with Halley’s occasional slips in demeanor.
Mr. Ngaujah, portraying a more juvenile character in Willie brings a bubbly and endearing personality on stage. His apparent humor is highlighted by his rant about his girlfriend’s heavy feet regarding an upcoming dance competition.
Mr. Robbins performs excellently as well playing Hally. He Begins with a stellar South African accent and consistently portrays all the nuances of his character; his real nature that is influenced by Sam, his intelligence, occasional hints of patronization and his strained relationship with his father.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
The play has a distressing conclusion as Sam gently criticizes Hally for disrespectful utterances about his father and Hally lashes out. This moment is upsetting, and one cannot help but wonder, watching Hally absorb the enormity of what he has done, whether this young boy will defy the odds of his upbringing to become an individual with respect for human dignity, despite race.