Friday, September 14, 2007

Raves for Weston's "Master Harold"

Burlington writer and theater critic Dan Wolfe recently traveled to southern Vermont to see the opening of Weston Playhouse Theatre Company's "Master Harold"... and the boys, which will come to the Flynn's MainStage on Friday, October 5 at 8 pm, as part of Weston's New England tour and the Flynn's new "Identities" theater series.

Wolfe's subsequent review of the show in the Vermont Times-Sentinel was chock full of with high praise for this "outstanding performance." (Click on the newspaper clip below to read the full review.)

"If you think you can only go to see one play, one production, during this 2007-2008 season," Wolfe writes, "I tell you without any reservation that this is the play and this is the production of the play that you should see—indeed, must see."

Winner of the New York Drama Desk and London Critics Circle awards, this compelling autobiographical tale by acclaimed playwright Athol Fugard celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Set in a family-owned South African tearoom on a rainy afternoon, the touching coming-of-age story tells the autobiographical story of a white boy, Hally (the young Fugard), and his complex relationship with two black waiters, the lighthearted Willie and the noble, introspective Sam—whom Hally views as a surrogate father figure.

"A good friend of mine calls this play 'the greatest play of the second half of the 20th century,'" writes Wolfe. "And I tend to agree."

Of Weston's production, Wolfe says it's "typical of the best that the Weston Playhouse has to offer. The set is simplicity itself, it contains every visual necessity that the script requires, yet it transcends all of this as the three actors make use of it. The direction by Hal Brooks is spot on. The production team of Wilson Chin, Kirche Leigh Zeile, Stuart Duke, and Kimberly Fuhr have given the actors just what they need, a Tiffany setting for their diamond-hard, multi-faceted performances." The talented cast includes Guiesseppe Jones (Weston’s Fences and Of Mice and Men) as Sam, Wendell Franklin (Illinois Shakespeare Festival, TV’s Law and Order) as Willie, and Clifton Guterman (Berkeley Rep., Arena Stage, Alliance Theatre) as Hally.

“Fugard is a master storyteller,” Brooks says in Weston press release for the show. “This special play depicts an incident in his life which scarred and haunted him. In this deeply personal story of fear and caring in apartheid South Africa of the 1950s, we join Hally, Sam, and Willie as they grapple with the reality of their lives while tenaciously clinging to their dreams.”

Hailed as “shattering” by the New York Times, “stunning” by the New York Daily News, and “a triumph” by the New York Post, Fugard's “Master Harold” is considered a modern classic. The Weston production is deeply theatrical, featuring masterful dialogue, an onstage rain shower, ballroom dancing, and an unforgettable emotional climax.

Wolfe advises readers to check in with the Flynn to see if we will offer a pre-performance talk—(indeed, we will. Steve Stettler, Weston's producing director, will speak on the artistic and political impact of the play, as well as the choices made in Weston’s production of this classic but relevant masterpiece, in the Flynn's Amy E. Tarrant Gallery at 6:30 pm the night of the show. The lecture is free.)—"That should be a must-see also," Wolfe says.

photograph of Weston actors Guiesseppe Jones, Wendell Franklin, and Clifton Guterman by Hubert Schriebl

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