Quickstepping through Falcon Theatre’s Master Harold… And the Boys

Review by Alan Jozwiak of Master Harold…and the Boys: Falcon Theatre

These days, ballroom dancing seems reserved for reality television shows like Dancing with the Stars—something that ordinary people do not participate in. However, learning the quickstep forms part of the basic storyline for Athol Fugard’s masterpiece Master Harold…And the Boys.

Set in South Africa Tea Room during a rainy afternoon in 1950, Master Harold discusses the trials and tribulations of Hally (Rupert Daniel Spraul), who is having problems with his alcoholic father and enabling mother. Listening to Hally’s woes are the servants in the tea room, Willie (Deondra Kamau Means) and Sam (Ken Early). Both Willie and Sam are avid ballroom dancers and are practicing for the upcoming dancing competition, much to the consternation of Hally. They are have to deal with the rules of apartheid or the strict racial segregation practices that went into effect in 1948.

This production had some of the best acting out of any of the Falcon Theatre productions this season. Director and Producer Ted Weil, fresh off of his acting success in Falcon’s Rabbit Hole, did an amazing job with his cast to produce a play that moves slowly and deliberately to its unexpected climax. Weil allows his actors to shine and find their own voices within the characters—something that each cast member does to perfection.

Spraul’s Hally was simply outstanding—both entirely believable and completely compelling to watch. Hally goes through a huge range of emotions within this short play and Spraul was able to go from being playful and nostalgic to despairing and hateful swiftly and effortlessly. A CCM Acting senior this coming academic year, Spraul is an actor to watch out for in the coming theater season. Already, he is treading the boards around town, having done a fine job in Clifton Performance Theater’s Small Engine Repair last month.

Similarly, Early’s Sam was almost like watching a master class in acting. Early is a master at how to play quiet dignity and restraint while under duress. In playing Sam, Early is deftly able to articulate the problems that Sam has in facing Hally while still maintaining his character’s dignity. It is a delicate balancing act that Early accomplishes beautifully.

Rounding out this trio of actors is Means’s portrayal of Willie. This is perhaps the most difficult role in the play to perform because Willie’s lines are mostly in the beginning and at the end of the play. In the middle, he has to play the role of the Greek Chorus listening and responding to the stories bandied about by Sam and Hally. Means does this job exceedingly well. We don’t forget that Means is there when he is not speaking, but Means serves to support the other characters as they flow in and out of different stories and memories.

In short, this was an amazing production of a play that needs to be seen by the greater Cincinnati theater-going public. It is worth the time and energy to take this ninety minute journey into the lives of these three characters. Master Harold…And the Boys only runs for one more weekend, Thursday May 18 to Saturday May 20, 2017 at the Monmouth Theater in Newport. Ticket information can be found on Falcon’s website http://falcontheater.net.

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