Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

"Master Harold" ... and the Boys
Round House Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of I Did It My Way in Yiddish (in English)

Ro Boddie, Craig Wallace, and Nick Fruit
Photo Courtesy of Round House Theatre
Playwright Athol Fugard has devoted his entire career to examining South-African life during and after apartheid, but "Master Harold" ... and the Boys, now in a deeply involving production at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, is among his most personal stories.

This chamber piece from 1982, which runs about 90 minutes without intermission, examines the roots of racial intolerance through the experiences of Hally (Nick Fruit), a teenage boy in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and Sam (Craig Wallace) and Willie (Ro Boddie), black employees of the tearoom operated by Hally's mother. The year is 1950, shortly after the institution of apartheid by a restrictive national government.

Director Ryan Rilette has molded his three actors into a tight ensemble, but Wallace—who has done impressive work for years at numerous Washington area theaters—dominates as Sam, the senior employee who has been Hally's surrogate father and role model for years. (Hally's father is a bad-tempered alcoholic, an invalid who lost a leg in World War II and tyrannizes his wife and son.) Hally fancies himself a future social reformer, but he has some blind spots that become apparent as the afternoon drags on.

Fugard takes his time setting up the scene, allowing the audience to see Sam coaching Willie for an upcoming ballroom dancing competition in New Brighton, the township where they live because Port Elizabeth is a segregated city. When Hally comes in from school, he engages Sam in a conversation about the greatest figures in history and considers writing a school essay comparing the etiquette of ballroom dance to the protocols of international diplomacy. As the tension gradually builds, Fruit effectively shows both his character's innocence and his frustrated anger, while Boddie as Willie affects a cheerful façade that doesn't quite hide his underlying resentment.

Round House Theatre
"Master Harold" ... and the Boys
April 11th - May 6th, 2018
By Athol Fugard
Sam: Craig Wallace
Willie: Ro Boddie
Directed by Ryan Rilette
4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-564-1100 or