Theater roundup: 'Into the Woods' and 'Master Harold'
South African-born playwright Athol Fugard trusts his audience to hang in and listen carefully as he lights a purposely slow fuse, knowing that they will be rewarded for their patience with an explosive theatrical climax. Certainly that is the case with Master Harold...and the boys, his one-act work from 1982... Master Harold...and the boys is something of a slow dance as well, a methodical box step with seemingly benign incidents along the way -- phone calls about Hally's crippled father being discharged from the hospital, Sam wistfully recalling a time when he taught Hally to fly a kite -- that accumulate into something quite combustible. Revived by Palm Beach Dramaworks as the first of a projected annual exploration of works with racial themes, the play receives a taut, well-performed production under William Hayes's understated direction. ...As Sam, Paul Bodie is the solid center of the production, projecting dignity and strength in a soft-spoken manner that suggests awareness and acceptance of his place in society. But when provoked, Bodie shows a steely anger that is undeniable. Jared McGuire (Hally) capably handles the substantial verbal demands of his role, moving methodically throughout the evening from a pleasant, and somewhat naïve lad to a man of furious temper. Summer Hill Seven draws the shortest leg of the performance triangle, the often silent, somewhat slow Willie, who creeps about on the edges of the stage, but he radiates an authenticity that frequently draws attention to him. Michael Amico's tea room set is not the showiest design he has done for the new Don and Ann Brown Theatre, but it is another triumph of character-rich detail and atmosphere. Master Harold...and the boys is small in size and duration, but by the final curtain, as its three characters form a microcosm of South Africa's well-earned reputation for racial inequality, Fugard demonstrates how incisive and powerful he can be tackling major issues on a simple, human scale.