In today’s Wall Street Journal I review Hartford Stage’s revival of Athol Fugard’s A Lesson from Aloes. Here’s an excerpt.
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Hartford Stage didn’t exactly need to be put on the map—it is one of New England’s most admired theater companies—but Darko Tresnjak’s seven-year run as its artistic director, during which he brought “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” and “Anastasia” from Connecticut to Broadway, has been most impressive. Since Mr. Tresnjak recently announced that he’ll be moving on at the end of the coming season, I thought it a good idea to take a look at his latest undertaking, a revival of Athol Fugard’s “A Lesson from Aloes.” Mr. Fugard is South Africa’s greatest playwright, but his plays are being produced less often now that his native land has turned its back on apartheid, whose ugly realities were the subject matter of most of his work. Those plays deserve a better fate, not least “A Lesson from Aloes,” a three-hander of high merit by which Mr. Tresnjak has done very, very well….
Mr. Tresnjak’s staging of “Aloes” is noteworthy for its poetic unity: Every element of the production is locks together into a seamless whole. From Tim Mackabee’s purposefully simple two-level set to the not-quite-naturalistic sound design of Jane Shaw, we are plunged into an alien land where nothing—not even the meticulously coached South African accents—is quite familiar. The cast is up to the challenge of filling this disorienting space, especially Andrus Nichols, who first came to my notice six years ago when she starred in the title role of Bedlam’s small-scale off-off-Broadway revival of “Saint Joan,” proving herself then and thereafter to be an actor of extraordinary force and focus. The impression that she made in Bedlam’s radically reconceived revivals of the classics was no fluke…
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Read the whole thing here.