South African playwright Athol Fugard, whose “A Lesson from Aloes” is set in 1963, could never have imagined that Nelson Mandela would finally be freed from prison and become the president. Fugard has written many plays about the effects of apartheid, the policy of racial separation, on the people of his country.This thoughtful and poignant drama, revived by the Banyan Theater Company for its summer series, still packs a big emotional wallop, giving us an intimate look into the disrupted lives of those who survived those years.
Don Walker directs this marvelous play, which focuses on three South Africans betrayed by the policies of the country in which they live. The story is more cerebral than our usual Sarasota fare, but the character development and unfolding of the history and interactions between the protagonists make it riveting.
Piet is an Afrikaner whose political consciousness was raised while he was working as a bus driver. Peter Thomasson plays this part to minute perfection. His gestures are so finely honed to suit his subject that you could be happy to focus your entire attention on him.
If you did that, however, you would miss the complex performance of Sara Morsey, as Piet’s wife, Gladys Bezuidenhout. With her English roots and her fair, fragile complexion, Gladys is ill-suited to survive — physically and metaphorically — in this harsh country torn by politics. Piet has protected his aloes, with their thick prickly skins, with much greater success than he has his wife.
Ron Bobb-Semple is electric as Steve Daniels, the black friend of Piet’s, who has been robbed of his birthright by the current government. Born in Guyana, Bobb-Semple exemplifies the plight of the “colored man” in South Africa.
Michael Newton-Brown, who designed the sets; Timothy Beltley, who did the costumes; and Michael Pasquini, who designed the lighting, have collaborated to create a setting that speaks to the theme of a people who have been forced to merely survive, rather than truly live, confined in “tins” too shallow to embrace their souls.
IF YOU GO
“A Lesson from Aloes”
When: runs through July 15
Where: Jane B. Cook Theatre at FSU Center for Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota
Tickets: $28.50; $8 student
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