Friday, May 25, 2012

My Children! My Africa!

Photo credit: Joan Marcus
Ruben Santiago-Hudson's production of Athol Fugard's My Children! My Africa! at the Signature Theatre has a lot going for it, namely three fine performances and transportive original music by Bobby McFerrin, but it can't quite overcome some of the problems in the script.

The play was originally written in 1989 and takes place in an Eastern Cape Karoo town in 1984. It begins with a debate in Mr. M's (James A. Williams) classroom between his star pupil, Thami (Stephen Tyrone Williams) and Isabel (Allie Gallerani), visiting from a nearby white school. The two students become fast friends and Mr. M decides to team them up to compete in a literary competition. But as Thami gets more and more caught up with the student boycott, he is torn between love for a teacher whose principles he disagrees with and his own beliefs that the education system is unfair.

The characters often go into too-long monologues which break up the flow of the rest of the play and significantly slow down the pacing, even when delivered by this cast. But when acting opposite each other, the performers are riveting. Stephen Tyrone Williams is particularly memorable. I saw him earlier this season in Burning and was shocked it was the same person--so convincingly was he able to portray a teenager.

1 comment:

Kimmy Ely said...

Mr. Hudson surely did a remarkable job at the helm of the musical. The play, which is about the possibilities of living with hope in a hopeless world, Mr. Hudson presented it as almost good as the original. Those who love watching plays will definitely enjoy this one!