BWW Review: BLOOD KNOT at The Pillsbury House Theatre: A Play Just as Relevant Now as 1961
Blood Knot by Athol Fugard, currently playing at The Pillsbury House Theatre is a show that was first performed in 1961 and is still just as poignant today. A "blood knot" is explained in the show as a bond by blood that will never be undone. In this case, the knot ties two brothers together in South Africa in 1960, then heavily racially segregated. One brother, Zachariah, is black and the other, Morris, is white.
This play definitely has a history unlike many plays we know now. As a blurb in the program tells you, this play was first performed one year after the Sharpeville Massacre, where 69 people were killed by the police after protesting against South Africa's passbook laws that restricted movement of Blacks and Colored. Sound familiar? This is a piece written from the despair and anger of people who were being killed by police, and that's what makes it hit so close to home today. You can feel it in the room. The energy that demands to be seen. Which makes this show a must-see before it closes June 16th.
The story is that these two brothers live together in a one-room shack in 1960. Zachariah, played by James A. Williams, works and his brother Morris, played by Stephen Yoakam, stays at home and does the housework. Zachariah is longing for a woman, so Morris suggests he get a penpal, which he can get from a newspaper. But when Zachariah accidentally picks up a white newspaper and starts sending letters to a white girl, things go out of hand for these brothers. We see them strain their relationship, we see them rely on each other, we see them play games from their youth. The latter shows us how they were as kids; pretending to drive a car to pretending to be rich and white. Those moments stick out to me as the best of the show, as we discover things about the characters as they too discover them about themselves.
The performances in Blood Knot are amazing to say the least. James A. Williams as Zachariah brings an authenticity to a role that, admittedly, I didn't want to like at first. Zachariah has a very hard shell, and Williams has found a way to crack it and show why we should care for this person. Stephen Yoakam as Morris is the softer, more emotional side to this brotherly duo. He has such a love for his brother and Yoakam puts his whole self into this role. Everything from his movement to his speech put me in awe. The program says that these two actors are two of the Cities' most beloved actors, and now I see why.
I urge the readers of this review to run to The Pillsbury House Theatre. You will sit in silent amazement like I did and see some great theatre. A piece of theatre that rings with voices that we hear today.
Blood Knot runs until June 16th at The Pillsbury House Theatre