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Theater|Review: ‘“Master Harold” … and the Boys,’ a Searing Indictment of Racism

PhotoFrom left, Sahr Ngaujah, Noah Robbins and Leon Addison Brown in Athol Fugard’s “‘Master Harold’ … and the Boys.” Credit Richard Termine for The New York Times

There is good reason that “‘Master Harold’ … and the Boys” ranks among the South African writer Athol Fugard[1]‘s most celebrated and popular plays. As the sterling new production that opened on Monday at the Signature Theater[2] attests, this quiet drama remains a powerful indictment of the apartheid system and the terrible human cost of the racism it codified and legalized. At a time when systemic racism and its roots are once again a subject of national discussion in America, it feels particularly, and sorrowfully, pertinent.

The three-character play, here directed with care by Mr.

Fugard himself, takes place in 1950, in a modest tea shop in the town of Port Elizabeth. Sam (Leon Addison Brown), in his 40s, works in the shop and wears a waiter’s uniform; his co-worker Willie (Sahr Ngaujah), about Sam’s age, does more of the rough work and is dressed accordingly. They are black; the 17-year-old Hally (Noah Robbins), the son of the tea shop’s owners, is white.

He arrives from school on a rainy afternoon and greets Sam and Willie cheerfully.

The relationship among them is warm, although Willie calls Hally “Master Hally,” while Sam calls him by just his name. But unsettling news spoils Hally’s friendly demeanor, at least temporarily. He learns that his mother has gone to the hospital to bring home his ailing father, for whom Hally clearly has little affection.

When Willie tosses a rag in mock anger at Sam, and it hits Hally, he says sharply: “Cut out the nonsense now and get on with your work.

And you too, Sam. Stop fooling around.” Their relationship is dictated not by their age or intelligence or behavior, but by the color of their skin.

Generally, Sam’s rapport with Hally is almost fatherly; in a particularly touching passage, they recall with affection a day they shared flying a kite. After Hally talks about being punished for an infraction at school, he is aghast when Sam describes what it’s like to be caned by the police.

PhotoFrom left, Sahr Ngaujah, Noah Robbins and Leon Addison Brown in this play, set in South Africa in 1950. Credit Richard Termine for The New York Times

His intelligence tells him that the racist system his country lives by is morally wrong. “I oscillate between hope and despair for this world as well, Sam,” he says, when Sam expresses a cynical view of the future. “But things will change, you wait and see.

One day somebody is going to get up and give history a kick up the backside and get it going again.”

The emotional power of the play resides at first in the affection Sam shows toward Hally. Mr. Brown gives an understated and deeply touching performance.

Although Sam was never educated — as he flips through Hally’s textbooks, he marvels at the words he doesn’t know — Mr. Brown underscores his acute moral intelligence. Faith in his dignity as a human being shines in Sam’s every word and act — and, what’s more, a compassion for Hally that allows him to put up with the young man’s slips into casual condescension.

Continue reading the main story[3]

As the more juvenile Willie, Mr.

Ngaujah, best known for creating the title role in the musical “Fela!,”[4] is bubbly and likable. His obsession with a coming dance contest brings humor into the play, as Willie rants about his girlfriend’s leaden feet. Perhaps it would help, Sam sternly suggests, if he didn’t beat her when she makes a wrong move.


Robbins is superb, as well, as Hally. Beginning with a fine South African accent, his performance brings out all the nuances in the character: his innate good nature, which has been nurtured by Sam, although Hally doesn’t recognize it; his natural intelligence, despite those lousy math scores; his submerged guilt and sorrow over his relationship with his father; and the hints of patronization that occasionally creep into his conversation.

The play moves to a harrowing conclusion when Sam gently admonishes Hally for saying disrespectful things about his father, and Hally lashes out. The moment is shocking, and heartbreaking, too, as we watch a stricken Hally absorb the enormity of what he has done: Mr.

Robbins’s face grows ashen, and he sits in his chair with a deathlike stillness. The moment illustrates, too, how it is often our inner demons that stoke our disrespect — or worse — for others.

With his outburst, it seems that the kind but callow boy has suddenly and inadvertently taken the first steps to becoming a man. But the question remains: Having grown up absorbing the racism that is endemic in his culture — its omnipresence is subtly symbolized by the rain we hear pelting down throughout the play — what kind of man can he become?

“Master Harold”… and the boys

Pershing Square Signature Center, The

480 W.

42nd St.

Midtown West

Find Tickets[5]

CategoryOff Broadway, Drama, PlayCreditsWritten and directed by Athol FugardCastLeon Addison Brown, Sahr Ngaujah and Noah Robbins

PreviewOctober 18, 2016OpenedNovember 7, 2016Closing DateDecember 4, 2016

Upcoming Shows

Wednesday November 9 2:00 PM
Wednesday November 9 7:30 PM
Thursday November 10 7:30 PM
Friday November 11 7:30 PM
Saturday November 12 2:00 PM

This information was last updated: Nov.

7, 2016

Continue reading the main story[6]


  1. ^ Athol Fugard (
  2. ^ Signature Theater (
  3. ^ Continue reading the main story (
  4. ^ “Fela!,” (
  5. ^ Find Tickets (
  6. ^ Continue reading the main story (

LG starts rolling out Android 7.0 Nougat to the G5

LG has started delivering Android 7.0 to owners of its modular G5 handset in South Korea, in the process claiming to be the first company to roll Nougat out to an existing Marshmallow phone. LG’s recent V20[1] was also the first phone to launch with Nougat on board, ahead of Google’s own Pixel devices in most countries.

There’s a catch, though — only Korean users are getting the update today.

LG says customers in the Americas, Asia, and elsewhere will have to wait for theirs to drop “in the weeks to come,” which as ever will be subject to the usual carrier-approval dance.

Still, the Korea rollout suggests that LG hasn’t run into any technical issues with the G5, so hopefully a US release won’t be too far off.


  1. ^ LG’s recent V20 (

Samsung runs full page apology ads over Galaxy Note 7 recall

In an effort to restore some consumer goodwill after the discontinuation of the Galaxy Note 7[1], Samsung ran full page apology ads in three major US daily newspapers today. The letters, which appeared in Monday editions of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, were aimed at English-speaking consumers, according to The Korean Herald[2]. The letter is signed by Gregory Lee, the president and CEO of Samsung Electronics North America.

“An important tenet of our mission is to offer best-in-class safety and quality.

Recently, we fell short on this promise. For this we are truly sorry,” the ad reads. “We will re-examine every aspect of the device, including all hardware, software, manufacturing and the overall battery structure. We will move as quickly as possible, but will take the time needed to get the right answers.”

The company says it’s continuing to investigate the device’s development and manufacturing processes to fully unearth what exactly went wrong and caused the device to catch fire and combust.

The Note 7, which was initially released back in August, suffered from critical flaws in its design that led to overheating. Samsung initially recalled millions of units in early September, but permanently discontinued production a month later after replacement phones began exhibiting the same issues. As of last week, around 85 percent of all devices have been returned[3], the company says.

Samsung’s product woes continue to get worse

The ad goes on to mention issues with 34 different models of Samsung top-load washing machines that have also forced the South Korean company to issue another embarrassing product rollback.

The company recalled 2.8 million units in the US late last week[4] after it discovered the top of the washing machines could detach from the chassis.

Nine people have reportedly been injured and Samsung has received more than 700 reports of malfunction so far, according to a November 4th statement[5] from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

All in all, it’s clear Samsung leadership feels the need to mend bridges. “Most importantly, safety remains our top priority,” the ad says in conclusion. “We are grateful for your ongoing support and again, we are truly sorry.”

– Via: Rurik Bradbury/Twitter[6]

– Source: The Korean Herald[7]


  1. ^ discontinuation of the Galaxy Note 7 (
  2. ^ according to The Korean Herald (
  3. ^ around 85 percent of all devices have been returned (
  4. ^ recalled 2.8 million units in the US late last week (
  5. ^ according to a November 4th statement (
  6. ^ Rurik Bradbury/Twitter (
  7. ^ The Korean Herald (