Picks and Pans Review: Master Harold...and the Boys

updated 11/12/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/12/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

Showtime (Monday, Nov. 12, 8 p.m. ET)

It is a play set in one room—a small tearoom in South Africa in 1950—on just one afternoon and it has but three characters who make points in metaphors, talking about dancing and kites and park benches. It sounds too highbrow to bear. But it is not. Master Harold, Athol Fugard's Broadway play, comes to cable as a rich and wonderful drama, well directed and superbly written and acted. Harold is a white teenager; the "boys" are Sam and Willie, black servants in his family's restaurant. These three are a family themselves. Harold teaches the boys history and literature—they talk of Shakespeare, Darwin, Tolstoy; the boys teach Harold humanity. But the boys' lesson is lost when Harold—upset that his drunken, bigoted father is coming home from the hospital—turns to abusing the boys, giving them what he thinks is a "lesson in respect," reminding each that "you're only a servant in here and don't you forget it." It is their pain that becomes hard to bear. South African actor Zakes Mokae reprises his Broadway role as Sam; he fully deserved the Tony he won for it. His countryman John Kani plays simple Willie with sweet compassion. And Matthew (WarGames) Broderick shines as Harold. He lets nothing—neither his acting nor the South African accent he takes on so effortlessly—upstage the script. Broderick may still look like a teen star, but he is a mature actor.

From Our Partners