January 17, 2012 |
NEW YORK - To honor the 80th birthday of celebrated South African playwright Athol Fugard, The Road to Mecca , a play he wrote in the mid-'80s, opened Tuesday night for the first time on Broadway. We have many reasons to celebrate Fugard - foremost, his creation of exceptional theater in his unswerving march against the official racism of South African apartheid - but The Road to Mecca is not among them. It's a ho-hum play with a dull first act, as tedious as cleaning up the piles on your desk, and with a second act that fails to deliver even the satisfaction of at least a clean desktop.
October 23, 2009 |
The new play that opened Wednesday at the Wilma Theater seems to have been written by two completely different playwrights. Act 1 comes from a playwright who is indulgent with himself and his characters, giving them one insufferably talky, hour-long scene in which nothing happens. Why are we being invited to see this play? Who knows. Wake me when it's over. Act 2 comes from a playwright who, without all that much reference to Act 1, easily sets up dramatic tension, quickly details his characters, and brings this hour to a beautifully crafted, elegant theatrical closure.
October 10, 2009 |
South African playwright Athol Fugard's new play Coming Home will start previews Wednesday and launch the Wilma Theater's season a week later. A sequel to 1995's Valley Song, it takes up the life of Veronica, who as a girl years before left her grandfather's farm in South Africa's Karoo region to seek fame and fortune as a singer in Cape Town. Valley Song was written in the early post-apartheid era, at a time when South African "hearts were filled with hope," the 77-year-old Fugard said in a recent phone interview.
February 6, 2009 |
Sizwe Bansi Is Dead, by Lantern Theater Company at St. Stephen's Theater, is about the bad old days, when apartheid ruled the lives of South Africa's black populace and that country was the pariah of the world. Athol Fugard's plays cry the beloved country, revealing its cruelty and injustice not with easy propaganda or preachy cant, but with powerful theater. Fugard's best, and best known, plays - "Master Harold" . . . and the boys, The Blood Knot, My Children! My Africa!, and The Road to Mecca - are about the complexities of relationships, not merely the simplifications of skin color.
October 23, 2008 |
Delaware Theatre Company's production of "Master Harold" . . . And the Boys is, like any Athol Fugard play, not an evening's light entertainment. South African Fugard - half Afrikaner, half European - has spent his life examining apartheid's bitter existence from every conceivable angle, including its current position, rotting on the autopsy table. Perhaps the best known of his works, "Master Harold" draws deeply from Fugard's upbringing in 1950s Port Elizabeth. The script's schoolboy, Hally (Seamus Mulcahy)
December 15, 2006 |
My Children! My Africa!, in a major revival at the Wilma Theater, begins with a spirited debate between two high school students; she's white, he's black, and their eloquent and passionate discussion will continue through the play, morphing from topic to topic, shifting from side to side. Athol Fugard's humanism refuses to play the polemics game, and instead makes us feel the rightness and the wrongness of each position. Written in 1989, before the end of apartheid in South Africa, this play must have been terrifying and electrifying when it was first performed in Johannesburg.
September 22, 2006 |
In St. George's Park Tea Room, it's hard to tell the men from the boys. The back and forth between a white college teen whose family owns the place and the two black employees who work there is playful, comfortable, easy. Until things heat up. Athol Fugard set "Master Harold" . . . and the Boys, his crescendo of a play about a boy and the servants who have come to be his lifelong confidants, in 1950 South Africa, when official apartheid was still new. The sheer intelligence - and ultimately the raw power - of Master Harold makes the 1982 play as vibrant now, 13 years after South Africa's period of legal racism ended, as it was then.
May 6, 2001
For more than 40 years, South African playwright Athol Fugard has used writing as a tool of storytelling, teaching and protest. His great subject has been his native land. His new play "Sorrows and Rejoicings," now debuting at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, addresses questions of race, exile, and the new South Africa. He spoke to Commentary Page editor John Timpane about the play and his hopes for his country. John Timpane: In a searing exit line, one of your characters, Allison, says that the younger generation in the new South Africa "are going to need all the love [they]
December 15, 2000 |
Written in 1969, Boesman & Lena is playwright Athol Fugard's blistering allegory of power struggles within marriage and society. That the couple are "colored," live under apartheid and are itinerant only compounds their elemental conflicts. As Samuel Beckett's Vladimir and Estragon live in the junkyard of the 20th century, Fugard's Boesman and Lena squat in its mudflats, reenacting a vicious cycle of abuse and humiliation visited upon them by racist whites. Danny Glover and Angela Bassett are superlative in this film version of the stage classic.
May 12, 1998 |
When the obscenity called apartheid was banished from South African life, many assumed that the man who had most passionately chronicled its corrosive evils would flounder in search of a subject. Apartheid and its dehumanizing effects had been Athol Fugard's moral obsession, recorded in a string of lacerating plays from The Blood Knot to Playland. In his first post-apartheid play, however, Fugard crossed everyone up. Valley Song, given its American premiere at McCarter Theatre in 1995, was a sweet little fable of a black teenage girl, her grandpa, and two generations' very different ideas of how to deal with a country in which hope had suddenly put in an appearance.