Monday, April 17, 2017

"Bloodknot" @ Atlas Perfomance Center by Mosaic Theatre

Went to Mosaic Theatre's production of Athol Fugard's 1961 play "Boodknot" about South Africa under apartheid. I am also pissed at myself for leaving my program and ticket stub at the after show restaurant and I blame my excellent company of friends, Gary and Mitchell, for distracting me with our conversation and fellowship. A worthy reason to lose anything!

The play is an intense drama around the relationship of two brothers with different fathers who've come to live together in a tin shack in a black township near Port Elizabeth. They are quite different in the tone of their skin color, one burnt umber and the other pinkish-tan. One can pass as colored or white and one is destined to be black. The play explores their disparate dreams for their futures, their connection and love of each other, and the dehumanizing life for blacks under Aparthied's rigid racist rules.

The experience was my second at Atlas Performing Arts Center and my first in the main theater venue, which was a revelation unto itself, since I assumed the first production that I attended was in the main theater space, but was not.

The action really centered on the two actors. Nathan Hinton as Zachariah Peterson the darker and less focused on the future brother, and Tom Story as Morris Peterson, the passably white brother. The power of the play's writing came through the actor's performances, and yet I was not completely satisfied with them. For one, having seen Tom Story now in 6 other productions in the past year, all I could see in his portrayal of Morris was Tom Story.

He seems to be everybody's darling in the DC theater community, and he can do many things well. He can memorize complicated lines in a short time. He can recite those lines in a theater setting with clarity and a range of emotional passion. But what he can't seem to do is present a character that doesn't remind one of Tom Story. I know this sounds harsh, and I don't mean for it to be, but I'm the one forking over the cash to see the performance and when it's compitent; I'll say so, and when it's transcendent; I'll gush over it. Tom is a compitent actor.

His counter part in this production, Nathan Hinton, was far more compelling to watch and provided a more empathetic character. For both of the actors, certain aspects of their portrayals fell short. Most noteably their South African accents. It didn't take long for Tom's version to digress into something comically non-standard Elnglish with hints of everything from Kiwi-English to Dutch English, but its inconsistency made it's origins unintelligable, and Nathan moved into that lovely lylting non-descript sub-Saharan central African English. The second act opened with two amazing faux pas's. The word "Zebra" pronounced as "zeebra" and not "zebrah" (short "e" like Debra). This was followed quickly by the the letter of the alphabet "Z" itself pronounced "Zee" and not "Zed". Even after only a month in South Africa over 25 years ago, I could spot these errors in a heartbeat. And the fact that I was so disengaged in the production to do so also speaks to the overall level of failure to achieve true engagement.

When you dare to perform a work of such depth and power, you cannot just accept that you've done it well and think you've done it justice. At the end of the performance, we were introduced to the South African Ambassador and his family who were guests for the production. I do so wanted to ask his opinion of the performance, but no sooner were they applauded, than they were wisked away. Makes one wonder, eh?
Tom Story as Morris Peterson and Nathan Hinton as Zachariah Peterson

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