Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Great writing, Relevant

About the show

Signature Theatre revives Athol Fugard's Tony-nominated drama about the insidious power of institutional racism. The playwright directs his seminal work.

... Read more

In a small tea shop in South Africa in 1950, two black men and a young white boy joke and dance together, defying the brutalities of apartheid through their joyous love. But festering issues of family, race, and power are not so easy to ignore, and a single phone call can trigger catastrophe. '"Master Harold"...and the boys' reveals the profound personal consequences of oppression.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

"As the sterling new production attests, this quiet drama remains a powerful indictment of the apartheid system and the terrible human cost of the racism it codified and legalized...Directed with care by Mr. Fugard himself...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...As the more juvenile Willie, Mr. Ngaujah is bubbly and likable...Mr. Robbins is superb, as well." Full Review


"It's a beautifully rendered yet somewhat sleepy revival of Fugard's best-known work, which feels unfortunately diminished amid its own grandiosity...Under Fugard's steady direction, 'Master Harold' reaches its emotional climax at a slow boil. This is as it should be, but the necessarily nuanced performances occasionally drown in the cavernous Diamond Theater...Still, those looking for a traditional and well-acted production of Fugard's masterpiece won't be disappointed." Full Review


"There is little action in the play, but a lot of thought...Brown and Robbins both do a superb job of conveying the complicated relationship between the two; one that leads to a powerful moment when the gentleman who has devoted more than a decade to being a role model to the boy must respond to his rebellion. The charismatic Ngaujah's role is more humorous, but he effectively serves as an example of acceptable behavior for a black man of that time and place." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"Directed by the playwright himself, this deeply moving and powerful 1982 play is now receiving an emotionally pitch-perfect revival...The play receives superlative treatment from the ensemble...'Master Harold' requires patience during its lengthy, meandering build-up, before reaching its emotionally devastating conclusion. But it's worth the time, and to see it again, especially as staged once more by the 84-year-old playwright, represents a privilege not to be missed." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"In the last 30 minutes, what has sometimes seemed a bit desultory and kitchen-sinkish, with a lacy overlay of pretty imagery involving kites and quicksteps, becomes gripping and then devastating...At times you might wish for more imaginative direction, or at least a more explicitly charming treatment of Hally...Even somewhat muffled, it cannot help speaking to something larger than South Africa in 1950, which was not the only place or time on earth when black lives didn’t seem to matter." Full Review

Time Out New York

"The 80-odd minutes that precede this bitter climax is exposition, backstory and windup. Richly detailed acting and Fugard’s solid direction make the journey there fairly engaging. The grown Robbins is totally convincing as the sweet, priggish but deeply repressed Harold, and Brown and Ngaujah have an easy rapport as two men cheerfully negotiating an unfair system." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"If Robbins embodies the powder keg of emotional conflicts that drive Hally, Leon Addison Brown is a tower of humanity, taking in Hally's meltdown with all-seeing eyes, yet not flinching from brutal honesty when it is needed….There's much more, all of it rendered in stunning detail under Fugard's direction…All three actors are superbly skilled in the art of listening…Fugard long ago admitted that the play is based on an incident from his youth…Out of the pain has come a masterpiece.” Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"The 84-year-old playwright directs the Signature production himself, and he does it with a masterful attention to details...Casting is crucial to make these relationships plausible...Leon Addison Brown projects just the right mix of dignity, decency, warmth and compassion...Ngaujah has transformed himself into Willie...As Hally, Noah Robbins would be a revelation, if I hadn’t been following his career already." Full Review

Broadway Blog

“It remains a thrilling play, even 34 years after its premiere in 1982...Fugard’s piercing, semiautobiographical evocation of the psychological pressures created by living in a racist society is remarkably affecting. We watch three people who love each other struggling to maintain their equanimity in a society where racial hatred infects everything it touches...Fugard’s perfectly calibrated direction inspires excellent performances all around.” Full Review

AM New York

"Athol Fugard’s 1982 apartheid-era drama proves to be both timeless and timely. Intimate and tightly constructed, sharply political and emotionally bruising, autobiographical yet universal, despairing but with a glimmer of hope, the drama uses the fragile relationship between a white schoolboy and his family’s longtime black servants to tackle the tense cultural climate of South Africa circa 1950...It is a masterful and accessible piece of writing." Full Review

The Clyde Fitch Report

"Fugard’s play is as fresh as the morning’s headlines. Any morning, lately...Theirs is a relationship brought to a boiling point by the 84-year-old Fugard, who proves that he’s one of the few playwrights who can direct his own work. The cast is flawless...Fugard’s true achievement with 'Master Harold…' (the ellipsis conveys plenty) is exposing the tearoom as a microcosm as he throws harsh light on a macrocosm." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"The play itself has not lost any of its power even if it's lost some of its ability to surprise...Fugard attacks the topic so thoroughly and so bracingly that it remains astonishing that he does so with such sensitivity and beauty that overwhelm the underlying anger...The gasps we may no longer need. But the accompanying insight is, as it has always been, invaluable." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"With his production at the Signature, Fugard does Fugard well....Mr. Robbins is perfection as Hally...Mr. Brown's performance is compelling with his understated presence, showing Sam’s intelligence despite the lack of learning. Mr. Ngaujah adds much needed humor...By the end, 'Master Harold' is a lesson learned simply by watching this riveting play performed, directed and stated so well." Full Review


"When a company of actors clicks, as do the three men who make up the entire cast, a great play becomes ineffable, or nearly so: transporting, transfixing and transformative, all at once. That was the impact of this South African playwright’s devastating roman à clef when it opened on Broadway in 1983, and it’s no less so in the piercing revival...A highpoint of the season." Full Review


"The ever-savvy Signature Theatre Company has returned the play to the directorial hands of the playwright, who has assembled a top-notch trio of actors led by the astonishing Leon Addison Brown. The result is the kind of production where you literally won’t hear a pin drop for 100 minutes...Most of all, we have Athol Fugard on hand to shed the real light – a spotlight blazing brightly on the complexities of the human condition." Full Review


"With its leisurely storytelling, deceptively complex humanity and grounded simplicity, the wonderful play reminds us how, through the decades, Fugard has taken people from very far away and made their lives so real that they resound beyond the impersonal facts of distant news stories...When I first saw 'Master Harold,' I dismissed it as just another pecking-order play...Fugard, in his reconsideration, proves how wrong I was." Full Review

Front Row Center

"A mighty play given a mighty production. It was a privilege to experience this moving work of art and I recommend it without reservation...The impact of the action and the finely wrought portrayals by these accomplished actors is one of astonishment...'Master Harold' is amusing at times. But it is at its best in establishing real, deeply experienced relationships, which, when they break apart, break us, the audience, also...Fugard has directed with perfect attention to detail." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"Two key characters are Sam, brilliantly played by Brown, and Willie, the excellent Ngaujah...The racism that explodes is irredeemably ugly, yet Sam’s strong verbal fight...foretells what will develop on a larger scale. My one qualm is...the tone of the performance by Robbins...Hally comes across as rather unpleasant from the beginning...But that’s a minor personal reaction to what is a devastating drama...It is an extremely well-written drama mounted with exemplary distinction." Full Review


"Fugard’s drama is slow to unreel, but builds to a confrontation audiences will find absorbing, no matter that Apartheid ended a decade after the play’s debut. Brown is compassionate and believable...Ngaujah, as the more mercurial Willie, has nice chemistry with counterpart...In Robbins’ interpretation, Hally is never very likable, coming off as a young Napoleon from the start. Because his Hally is such a brat, the play is denied a larger sense of any escalating ferocity within the boy." Full Review


“‘Master Harold…and the Boys’ is probably the best-known work by South African master playwright Athol Fugard. The latest production at the Signature Theatre is the clearest and most subtle of the several I've seen. Under Mr. Fugard's astute direction, the play unrolls at a surprisingly leisurely pace, its microcosmic look at 1950's South African Apartheid society making its mark at first with whispered indications of discontent and finally with an explosion of hatred and disloyalty.” Full Review

The Washington Post

"The catalyzing moment is handled expertly by the actors in this commendable revival...The political context does not feel as urgent now and, as a result, an audience shifts its attention even more resolutely to his dramas’ emotional cores. Fortunately, ‘Master Harold’ has a powerful one. Fugard himself has directed this revival, and though it comes across as talkier than some superlative past versions, it still builds potently...It’s a particular pleasure to witness the work of Robbins here." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"Its powerful discussions and depictions of racism and social class greatly resonate in a society where just four months earlier the chant 'Black Lives Matter!' rang through the city...Under Fugard’s masterful direction, the rising stakes and pain of the characters become palpable as Sam and Hally move closer and closer to the invisible Rubicon between black servants and white masters...Theater fans would be sorry indeed if they were to miss out on this exquisite production." Full Review


"Now in revival, under the direction of Fugard, his coming-of-age play still pulses with a terrible beauty...Fugard impeccably directs to let the Beckett-like simplicity of his play be its strong suit. He trusts to its spare language, vividly limned characters, and the tableaus of the racial hate percolating in South Africa of 1950...The revival of his autobiographical 'Master Harold' is a fine opportunity to re-visit a gem that transcends the dark days of apartheid." Full Review

Magical MissTari Tour

"It's theatrically wonderful how the air is completely sucked out of the room and your heart breaks for the relationships that have been forever changed. The acting is superlative - all three performers are truly at the top of their game and they complement each other beautifully...Basically writing about yourself and insidiousness of institutional racism is a powerful thing to do, and Fugard is masterful in getting that below the surface." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Playwright Athol Fugard directs and conducts the breathtaking hairpin turns in the dialogue rhythms that lull us into revelations...The play feels devastatingly current and resonant in today’s America…An intimate, slow burn of a masterwork. Characters with full and layered lives change in a dramatic instant into social stereotypes, the race and class tensions simmer through civility, and we feel their loneliness and their loss." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Masterful, Profound

See it if was my first review ever! Loved it great acting, directing and super story. Very poignant and consuming. James Earl Jones was brilliant.

Don't see it if You do not like what the story deals about. Touching at times and is not for everyone.

Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant, Powerful, Lyrical

See it if powerful play on racism

Don't see it if uncomfortable with racism

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you want to see Fugard tenderly, but not sappily direct his most prominent work with pitch perfect acting in an intimate setting.

Don't see it if See it!!

Also Mandatory viewing, especially if you sat thru the excruciatingly ill e... Read more Read less

Profound, Relevant, Riveting, Great writing, Exquisite often painful to watch

See it if You love Athol Fugard's brilliant and provocative subjects of whites and blacks in South Africa, class wars and apartheid. Powerful!

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with confrontation between blacks and whites or if you are looking for light breezy fare.

Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see some great and intense acting.

Don't see it if you have seen previous productions or its datedness.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Profound

See it if You like Fugard. You appreciate smart, historical emotional drama. You follow history of racial discrimination and inequity.

Don't see it if You want to laugh and be entertained at a play. Like fluff and elaborate scenery and costumes.

Great acting, Disappointing, Overrated, Slow

See it if You are a fan of Athol Fugard and true life, hard hitting dramas. This isn't light, or fluffy. But the acting is great.

Don't see it if You don't like your plays slow with the last 15 minutes being full of action. People were falling asleep all around me.

Well-written and nicely directed., Absorbing and intelligent., Still relevant, but this play stunned when first produced., Parts are very moving and tender., Good performances by two of the three actors.

See it if You've never seen an Athol Fugard play.-some very beautiful moments here. "Harold" lacked nuance, but the other actors were quite good.

Don't see it if Insensitive/uninterested re apartheid,aren't up for tough drama, don't like plays w 1 set, little action, no break. Need to lean in a bit.

Great acting, Profound, Slow, Great staging, Devastating

See it if You don't want to miss an opportunity to see a famous play staged by its playwright - in a superbly staged and acted production.

Don't see it if You don't think you can sit still at a play that doesn't fully kick in until late into its duration. It's a long wait for the payoff.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see great actors do great work in a tricky but well-written and well-staged play.

Don't see it if you're looking for something light. Considered highly autobiographical, this play cuts to the heart of class and race in South Africa.

Great acting, Relevant, Great writing, Slow, Dated

See it if you appreciate strong acting and a well written play.

Don't see it if you are looking for something disruptive and innovative.

Relevant, Slow

See it if you're interested in race relations in 1950s South Africa

Don't see it if you're not a fan of the play already or if you're bored by slow moving conversational drama

Great acting, Intelligent, Intense, Relevant, Great writing

See it if you are interested in seeing a powerful, perfectly paced one-act show that delves deep into the ugliest parts of the human soul.

Don't see it if you want your theatrical experiences to be light and fluffy with a happy ending.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Riveting

See it if you love plays that are about important issues and also pack an emotional punch

Don't see it if you want to see tap dancing, there's only ballroom dancing in this one

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Masterful, Profound

See it if It's moving and much needed in these troubled times. Bring tissues and take it all in. Beautifully done. So moving.

Don't see it if If you want a lighthearted play.

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you want to feel the intensity about apartheid and racial injustices that still abound

Don't see it if if you are looking for something entertaining and light

Also The climax was very powerful but, for me, it took too long to get ther... Read more Read less

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Great writing, Shocking

See it if you want to experience how a master playwright describes the unjust system in which he was raised, with profundity and humor and all.

Don't see it if you would find 2 hours of authentic South African accent difficult to follow or fall asleep in plays that are "all about the talk"

Absorbing, Intelligent, Masterful, Relevant

See it if black lives matters speaks to you. This story of apartheid is small in scope but resonates deeply.

Don't see it if You are looking for a bells and whistles big production.

Great acting, Intelligent

See it if Well done revival with as usual a fine cast to bring it all together. Noah Robbins again a future star in the making.

Don't see it if Story about apartheid doesn't appeal to you.

Absorbing, Delightful, Exquisite, Great acting

See it if you are interested in taking a good hard look at apartheid in 1950 with lessons that can be applied today.

Don't see it if you think we are now living in a perfect world with no racial injustice

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Must see, Relevant

See it if you want to see great acting and be touched by a story

Don't see it if you don't like serious stories

Masterful, Profound, Relevant, Resonant, Riveting

See it if Fugard is a master; MH is a lyrical but painful examination of the scourge of racism and hatred. Great production; extraordinary acting.

Don't see it if you want to avoid contemplating serious issues or seek a happy, speedy or flashy show. This is great art, but it hurts, esp in the Trump era

Absorbing, Relevant, Resonant, Well-acted

See it if you've never seen a production of this play. Has a lot to say, and sadly, still relevant today.

Don't see it if you have no interest in seeing racial issues handled in the theater.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if You want to see a Tony nominated good show about racism

Don't see it if You aren't interested in a show about racism

Absorbing, Masterful, Profound, Relevant, Resonant

See it if A timeless play beautifully written and performed. The play slowly builds to a powerful, thought provoking climax.

Don't see it if you're uncomfortable with plays dealing with race relations.

Cast & Creatives (10)