Gloucester Stage tonight opens an award-winning play, which is set half way around the world in an apartheid South Africa, and the cast includes a native South African.
“ ‘Master Harold’…and the Boys,” by Athol Fugard, a South African playwright, was first produced at the Yale Repertory Theater in early 1982, before op
ening on Broadway in May 1982. The play itself was banned by the South African government but it ran for 344 performances in New York City and continues to be produced around the world. The play earned the Drama Desk and Critics Circle awards for best play in 1983, and London’s Evening Standard Award in 1984.
The synopsis states that the play, set in a teahouse in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in 1950, “tells a political and personal coming-of-age story in which a deeply-rooted racism poisons the tender and humorous relationship between a white teenager and his family’s black servants.”
Eric Engel, the Gloucester Stage artistic director, applauded not only the play but the cast and director, all of whom are making their debut here.
“This is a terrific piece,” Engel said. “I read the script wondering if it lost any of its timeliness post-apartheid but it is as timely and relevant as ever. It’s also such an entertaining play.”
Fugard, who has been nominated for a Tony Award six times, has worked in the theater as a playwright, director and actor since the mid-1950s in South Africa, England and the United States. His plays are “Train Driver,” “No-Good Friday,” “Non-Gogo,” “Blood Knot,” “Hello and Goodbye,” “Boesman and Lena,” “Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act,” “Sizwe Banzi Is Dead,” “A Lesson From Aloes,” “The Road to Mecca,” “The Captain’s Tiger,” “Sorrows & Rejoicings” and “Victory.”
His novel “Tsotsi” became a film, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. His film credits include “The Road to Mecca,” “Gandhi,” “The Killing Fields,” “Meeting with Remarkable Men” and “Marigolds in August.”
Director Benny Sato Ambush directs a cast comprised of Johnny Lee Davenport as “Sam,” Anthony Willis Jr. as “Willie” and South African native Peter Mark Kendall as “Hally.”
Davenport has a long list of credits nationally, and has received an Elliot Norton Award and BroadwayWorld Boston Award. He was named Best Actor In Boston in Boston Magazine’s “Best of Boston” August 2011 issue.
Willis has performed Off Broadway in New York City with the New York International Fringe Festival in “The Happiness of Schizophrenia” and at Cherry Lane. In the Chicago area, he worked with Black Ensemble, The Hypocrites, Journeymen, where he appeared in “Master Harold ... and the Boys.” He is also a visual and performance artist.
Kendall, whose family emigrated from South Africa in 1985, received his bachelor’s degree from McDaniel College, and is entering his final year at Brown/Trinity Rep’s MFA Acting Program.
Ambush is a professional stage director, and former producer and artistic director, who has a long list of theater credits from coast to coast. He is an educator, consultant and published commentator. He is distinguished producing director-in-residence at Emerson Stage and on the acting and directing faculty in the Department of Performing Art at Emerson College in Boston.
Gail McCarthy may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3445 or email@example.com.
If you go What : "Master Harold… and the Boys," a new show at Gloucester Stage When : July 26 through Aug. 12 Where : Gorton's Theatre, 267 East Main St. in Gloucester How much: Tickets are $40, and $35 for senior citizens and students. A limited number of $20 discount tickets are available to Cape Ann residents for all Wednesday and Thursday evening performances. The 3 p.m. Saturday show on July 28 is a Pay-What-You-Can matinee. Following the 4 p.m. show on Sunday, July 29, the audience is invited to a free post-show discussion with the artists. For reservations or information, call the box office at 978-281-4433 or visit www.gloucesterstage.org.