Review submitted by Jonathan Tease
Recently (February 2020), I had the pleasure of seeing “Master Harold…” and the Boys at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix. The show runs through March 1 and I highly recommend going to see it while you can. Prior to attending, I noticed it was featured twice on Broadway and by the end of the night, I fully understood why.
This beautifully written piece takes you on an emotional journey as you follow the unexpected connection between a young schoolboy and his two black servants. Once the lights were lowered, the water show quietly running in the background added the final touches to the stage’s optics giving this charming set design the illusion of continuous rainfall.
The production takes place in the 1950’s South African apartheid-era on a stormy afternoon. Since the day is all but lost to the inclement weather, the trio resumes their usual tradition of dancing and debate in lieu of actually finishing Master Harold’s homework while at his family’s shop. The obvious friendship between “Hally” and his servants, Sam and Willie, is atypical for this era. Yet when an unexpected phone call interrupts the fun and games things take a turn for the worse, challenging the strength of their relationship.
This play is a graceful reminder of the legacy of colorism, classism, and education disparity, created by the apartheid system. Yet at its most pivotal moments, it also strives to demonstrate the power of human kindness and friendship. Whether you relate more to Master Harold’s frankness, Sam’s silent resolve, or Willie’s servant nature throughout the play, when you leave, you will feel a strong connection not just to the people on stage, but also to the ones sitting next to you in the audience.