Monthly Archive for: ‘June, 2016’

Aurora ends season with powerful ‘Master Harold … and the Boys’

Aurora Theatre Company successfully concludes its 24th season with Athol Fugard’s “Master Harold … and the Boys.”

Fugard is a white South African playwright who has long written about the personal toll of apartheid, his country’s racist policy that finally was abolished in 1994.

Calling this 1982 play his most autobiographical, he sets it in 1950 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Like 17-year-old Hally (Andrew Humann) in the play, he was a white boy whose mother owned a tea shop there. Like Hally, his father was a disabled alcoholic.

As the play opens on a rainy afternoon (sound by Theodore J.H. Hulsker), the tea room’s two black employees, Sam (L. Peter Callender) and Willie (Adrian Roberts), are cheerfully bantering. Because Willie plans to enter an upcoming ballroom dance contest, he’s practicing and getting tips from Sam (choreography by Chelsea Farrah).

The good mood continues when Hally returns from school to do his homework. It becomes apparent that Sam has been an important father figure to Hally.

However, the mood changes when Hally’s mother telephones and says that his father is coming home from the hospital, much to Hally’s distress. Instead of treating them like friends, Hally asserts his authority as a white person and as the owner’s son. He imperiously reminds the two men of their inferior status as blacks and servants (instead of employees) and orders them about.

He insists that they call him Master Harold, not Hally, much to the dismay of both men, especially Sam.

Hally’s shameful act of scorn against Sam would seem to end their close relationship, but Sam leaves the door open to reconciliation. Whether Hally will go through it is left to the viewer to decide.

Director Timothy Near has done a masterful job with her cast. Callender’s Sam comes across as wise, insightful and caring. Humann’s Hally goes through a range of emotions as his adolescent character deals with his love-hate relationship with his father as well as his inborn sense of white privilege. Roberts’ Willie is more likely to observe, but he can intervene when necessary.

Near’s artistic colleagues contribute to this production’s success. Lisa Anne Porter is the dialect coach who has the two black characters speaking with an Afrikaans accent, while Hally has a more polished English accent.

The set is by Richard Olmsted with lighting by Kurt Landisman and costumes by Victoria Livingston-Hall.

Although the one-act play runs only 90 minutes, it’s full of vivid characterizations and powerful interplays of emotions and issues.

“Master Harold … and the Boys” continues through July 17 at Aurora Theatre Company, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley.  For tickets and information, call (510) 843-4822 or visit


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