BWW Review: One of Kansas City's Best Dramas MASTER HAROLD...AND THE BOYS Opens at City Stage
The Kansas City Actors Theatre continues to provide Kansas City with some of the best dramas to appear in local theater with the opening of "MASTER HAROLD"...AND THE BOYS Saturday night, at the City Stage in Union Station. Directed by Gary Heisserer the drama runs through September 29.
Written by Athol Fugard it is a self-proclaimed semi-autobiographical play which opened in March of 1982 at the Yale Repertory Theatre and moved to Broadway in May of 1982. It remained at the Lyceum Theatre for 334 performances winning six awards, including a Tony Award for Featured Actor in a Play and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play, among others. The play was adapted by the playwright in 1985 as a television movie.
Set in 1950, during the apartheid period in South Africa's history, it is the story of presumed friendship, bigotry, and immaturity. Fugard wrote the play only two years after the apartheid took effect and it was initially banned from production in South Africa. Many aspects of the play coincide with Fugard's life growing up in the racist nation. His father like that of the main character was a bigoted unemployed alcoholic and his mother ran a boarding house and tearoom in Port Elizabeth. Fugard admitted in his notebooks, according to the Playbill Program Notes, that growing up he had only two friends, Sam and Willie, both servants of the family. One moment in the play, when Harold orders Sam to call him "Master Harold" not only sets the tone for the ending of the play but for the life of the character and the playwright.
Walter Coppage doesn't just star as Sam, he becomes Sam giving one of the most powerful and dynamic performances to come across a Kansas City stage this season. Coppage leaves nothing in the dressing room from the opening curtain to the final standing ovation. He has appeared in numerous performances in Kansas City and in my opinion, this is one of his finest. Besides appearing at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, The Coterie, Spinning Tree Theatre, and the Unicorn he has appeared in six feature films and five television programs.
Arthur Clifford stars as Harold or Halley as he is referred to in the play. He gives an emotional performance as one moment he is likable though a naive young person and the next he is an immature bigot using his status as a white person against his only friends. He has previously appeared at the White Theatre, The Barn Players, and The Culture House.
Khalif J. Gillett appears as Willie, giving an outstanding performance, in his first professional role since graduating from the University of Missouri at Kansas City's MFA Acting program in May. He has previously appeared at Kansas City Actor's Theatre, The Coterie, Kansas City Repertory, and the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.
"MASTER HAROLD"...AND THE BOYS is another don't miss play that has come to a Kansas City Stage this season. This masterpiece continues at the City Stage through September 29. Purchase tickets online at www.kcactors.org.
Photos by Brian Paulette