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The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

From 27 critic and 8 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Absorbing, Great writing

About the show

Signature Theatre presents a world premiere by Athol Fugard inspired by the life of South African outsider artist Nukain Mabusa. More…

Aging farm laborer Nukain has spent his life transforming the rocks at Revolver Creek into a vibrant garden of painted flowers. Now, the final unpainted rock, as well as his young companion Bokkie, has forced Nukain to confront his legacy as a painter, a person and a black man in 1980s South Africa. When the landowner’s wife arrives with demands about the painting, the profound rifts of a country hurtling toward the end of apartheid are laid bare.


"Stories seem to topple from the imagination and memory of Athol Fugard - simple stories that, before we know it, swell to become the rich, uneasy historical and personal journey of his country. So it is again, this time...And from such simplicity, Fugard, once again, stamps indelible human faces on faraway reports of the world's news." Full Review


"Since the end of apartheid, Fugard's plays have been more personal than political. His latest represents a return to politics, specifically a reckoning with lingering inequalities and the rule of law in modern South Africa. The result is as insightful as those earlier works, with an added layer of nuance that can only come from a seasoned dramatist like Fugard...'The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek' is potent not just for its astute politics, but its subtly poignant meditation on mortality." Full Review


"Fugard has staged his show, and while he has not always been the best executor of his own work, that is not the case with this magisterial, exquisitely paced production...It is a play that belongs on Broadway." Full Review

Let's Talk Off-Broadway

"The largest issues of historic change and social justice, and the tragedies and ambiguities that accompany them, are made immediate through three 'small' lives played out on a patch of rocky earth...Sitting in the front row, I sneezed from the dust, and was glad even that way to be a part of Nukain’s world. This is a play that matters greatly. Thank you, SignatureTheatre, for helping to bring this superb play into creation." Full Review

NY Theatre Guide

"The performance is tremendously engaging. There is always something so relatable about a generational tale that links together the politics of a time period and the necessity of the human heart...The play is a wonderful comment on the politics of life and how we learn to use the little gestures to make much larger waves. Fascinating and well conceived, 'The Painted Rocks At Revolver Creek' is a must see." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"A modest, almost oblique but ultimately explosive look at the new South Africa...A fascinating lesson in differing perspectives...'The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek' works best as character studies and a glimpse into an evolving society. But it also does something else...he both describes and once again demonstrates the tangible power of art." Full Review


"Touching and lyrical new drama...The ensemble cast is very strong and the volatile issues are explored with soft-spoken eloquence. A very moving piece presented in an engaging production." Full Review


"Watching the dead rock come to life is as thrilling for us as it is for Nukain...Had the play ended at this point, it would still leave the audience shaken. But in the second act of his carefully built play, Fugard broadens the meaning of Nukain’s masterpiece by placing that powerful symbol of a man’s human dignity in a modern-day context." Full Review


"Fugard makes no attempt to tone down the polemical flavor of the dialogue and the tenor of that dialogue deserves attention...The performances are all outstanding...The production values overall are, like all Signature productions, wonderful. The stage hands get quite a workout preparing the rock garden for its second act transformation. The dialogue includes many non-English expressions, but no worries — The program includes a helpful glossary." Full Review

New Jersey Newsroom

"The playwright strives here to provide a balanced look at people dispossessed by the ruling culture. He sweetens this sad story with thoughts regarding how lives can be transformed by art. He concludes the play with a plea for mutual understanding and ends on a relatively upbeat note of grudging affirmation. Composing the drama with characteristically plainspoken talk, Fugard again manages to consider a thorny issue without being unduly didactic about it. His thoughtful play is warmly animat... Full Review

Stage Buddy

"A visually stunning and emotionally intimate portrait of life during and after apartheid...Athold Fugard has spent his life working to tell the story of the marginalized people of South Africa, trying expose the evils of apartheid to a larger audience, trying to make sense of his own place in his home nation. His legacy is unquestionable, yet, in his eighties now, his story bears stirring resemblances to Nukain's, looking back once more to reassert his humanity, to 'paint the big rock.'" Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"In the early passages of 'The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek,' I feared that Fugard was setting up his situation in too neat and pat a manner, as if determined to teach us all a lesson. I couldn't have been more wrong. Now in his 80s, he continues to combine incisively drawn characters and situations with a commanding moral voice. This is a small play in some ways, but it contains a multitude of ideas about the still-undecided fate of a nation." Full Review

The New York Times

"The tense conversation that ensues sometimes stumbles over expositional passages detailing the contrasting fates of farmers in South Africa and Zimbabwe. And while Jonathan’s eloquence is neatly explained by his passion for words, some of his speeches have the whiff of the prepared lecture about them. But the impassioned performance helps to animate the staid patches in the writing." Full Review

New York Daily News

"Fugard’s work is one of imagination. His play isn’t ground-breaking, but his script has plainspoken eloquence and the cast is first-rate. You’d have to have a heart of granite not to be moved watching empathy tentatively bloom in a garden of rocks." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"The need for reconciliation and tolerance from both sides is palpable, and, as both writer and director, Fugard has brought it out with a razor-edged softness all his own. He highlights the "everyday" nature of the conflicts that underlie the action, letting us view them as disparate outposts in a much broader struggle, and making the remarkable betrayals and truces along the way that much more effective." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"'The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek' provides a sturdy platform to discuss change while regaling us with cultural flavor and a charming rapport between a spiritual father and son. Though the first act is stronger, more profound, and more lively than the second, the arc and the completion of the story is there...First and foremost, what will stay with you is the storytelling, the performances, and the imagery that you encounter on the journey there." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"A persuasive, touching two-act play. Although not, perhaps, on the level of his greatest works, it’s nevertheless compelling and thoughtful; it’s also getting a damned good performance...The acting combines truth and honesty with close attention to the rhythms and sounds of the language." Full Review

New York Post

"The show can be repetitive — Jonathan reminds us over and over how the Big One tells Nukain’s story — but it tackles the two sides’ fear and anger in a surprisingly gentle way. Jonathan and Elmarie eventually reach a precarious peace, even as Fugard suggests the country’s issues are too deep to be easily fixed." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"An intimate theatrical gem...The play becomes a bit stilted and didactic, in which the post-apartheid themes are stated far too explicitly. But it's deeply moving nonetheless...The production has its flaws — the staging is too leisurely, and not all of the dialogue rings true. But the work is a worthy addition to his distinguished canon." Full Review

USA Today

"If Fugard approaches their difficult, balanced conversation with predictable intelligence and compassion, it feels longer than the clock suggests. There is also a problem with pacing in the first act, which takes a good 20 minutes to spring to life. Still, Fugard culls passionate and compelling performances from the actors." Full Review

Entertainment Weekly

"It’s powerful source material, but some writing choices leave a bit to be desired—during a heated exchange, should it really be the black character’s responsibility to advocate for peace and understanding, and attempt to teach the gun-wielding white woman the error of her ways?... But the author obviously has good intentions, and under his guidance, the small cast deliver impeccable performances all around." Full Review


"It's a rather static play, not measuring up to such great Fugard dramas as "Master Harold...and the Boys" or "Blood Knot." Yet, infused with the playwright's compassion, it has powerful and touching moments...Fugard offers hope, however fragile, of reconciliation." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"Vision, and the lack of it, is one of the themes of this clear, touching, occasionally blunt two-act evening...The play’s conflict between old and new South Africa is, like its central art work, a bit too large and looming to make for easily contained drama." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"A play like The Painted Rocks, meant no doubt to be timeless, seems timebound instead...This is not to say that Fugard’s traditional works can’t be powerful, but their power is, to my mind, not always sufficiently theatrical, especially when they approach his great subject...There is not much room for movement, dramatic or otherwise, in a world where whites cannot see the lives of their victims...Thus the gun. And thus, less desperately, the excellent performances of the four-person cast." Full Review

USA Star

"You need artists of this status to attain in a unequivocally unpromising sourroundings of The Painted Rocks, whose discourse sounds like records toward an beliefs rather afterwards expressions of it.... We’ve seen this before with Fugard; when you’ve created 34 or so plays, many of them about one of a world’s many horrible and intransigent regimes... Some, like 'The Painted Rocks', will be mute, if no reduction monumental." Full Review

Absorbing, Intelligent, Painful, Good performances, Touching

See it if You like drama, you have an interest in social history of apartheid, like serious topical dialogue

Don't see it if You prefer light fare, you are not interested in life in other countries, equality struggle.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, A little overwritten

See it if You enjoy great acting and stories of human creativity and resilience.

Don't see it if You aren't interested in South African stories and can't take a little second-act preachiness

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great staging, Original, Relevant

See it if you want to see a show that makes you think, but without it feeling like it takes a lot of effort. Great staging and acting

Don't see it if you want something unequivocally upbeat, or faster-paced

Slow, Potent, Masterful, Sturdy, Relevant

See it if you want to catch the latest work by an old master, unsurpassed at matching the political with the personal in simple words and actions.

Don't see it if you want that revolver to go off. Patchy pacing, with serious talk emphasized over excitement, may make you feel you're watching paint dry.

Exquisite, Great writing, Intelligent, Lifelike, Profound

See it if you like a simple and beautiful set and a moving story about an old man and a boy in pre and post Apartheide South Africa.

Don't see it if you find it really hard to understand a thick South African accent.

Disappointing, Thought-provoking, Important subject, Long, Unconvincing plot

See it if you love Fugard's work. Tho not as effective as Master Harold, PRARC still has fascinating social commentary. Act II is unconvincing.

Don't see it if you want a coherent plot and outstanding dialogue (it is repetitive). I even got sick of watching the painting. Still, exposure to new info.

Also I was interested in Painted Rocks, but the plot didn't work by the end... Read more Read less

Great acting, Relevant, Masterful, Great writing

See it if You love Athol Fugard, he is a master playwrite

Don't see it if you want excitement

During previews
Potent, Gripping, Great writing, Great acting, Powerful

See it if you care to be enlightened by a master playwright on the persistent racial scars left by apartheid on the lives of South Africans

Don't see it if you are unprepared for the emotional journey behind a seemingly simple portrait of an artist's legacy

Cast & Creatives

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