Sunday, May 20, 2007

Athol Fugard's "'MASTER HAROLD'...and the boys"

Most summers I have piles of free time to read; this summer, I'm taking care of my son and so my reading time is limited. Rather than try to read long novels and be disappointed in how few I read, I'm going to primarily read plays and poetry. Poetry I can read in short bursts whenever I get a chance, and drama reads very fast. So my summer will be spent familiarizing myself with some drama I haven't yet encountered. I'll try to give at least a brief comment on each play I read.

The challenge of a one-act play is that the relationships between the characters must reveal themselves, naturally, in the dialogue taking place during one scene. That is also the strength of the one-act play--in such a brief piece of literature or performance, the larger realities and significance of relationships between characters reveals itself. It's like a small grape that tastes so rich because all the flavor is compacted; the energy from a well-written (and well-performed) one-act play reveals everything you need to understand.

"'MASTER HAROLD'...and the boys" succeeds in this regard. The relationships between the characters are clear; the meaning of it all reveals itself in the conversations and conflicts. And perhaps more--rather than just showing us the relationships between Hally, Sam, and Willie, Fugard might be showing us the greater reality of Apartheid society.

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