Athol Fugard’s most personal play, “Master Harold” examines the crippling effect of South African apartheid through a boy’s relationship with workers at his family’s tea room.
On a rainy day in Port Elizabeth, Willie (Daniel Bryant) and Sam (Alfred H. Wilson) prepare the tea room and regale young Hally (Nate Burger) with stories of local ballroom-dancing championships, a graceful world without ugliness or awkward collision. They attempt to guide Hally through his inability to face his father’s disabilities and alcoholism, to no avail.
Wilson brings a zen calm and dignity to Sam, Hally’s substitute father figure. Bryant captures Willie’s sly, soothing comedy as the tea room’s peacemaker. Newcomer Burger’s energy is refreshing, but his performative style prevents him from bringing subtle nuances to the role. Timothy Mann’s set is a wedding cake of 1950s pastels; Jonathan Wilson’s direction drives the pacing to its unfortunate climax and inevitable confrontation. (Lisa Buscani)
At Timeline Theatre, 615 W. Wellington, (773)281-8463. Through March 21.