By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
With such strong technical support, the actors are able to give performances that are models of subtlety and realism. As Sam, Bill Ray is a study in quiet dignity; he's almost too soft-spoken in the first half of the play. Then comes his character's flash point, which threatens violence, but is tempered by breathtaking self-control. Remarkable acting here.
As Willie, Christopher Piper, a standout over the past year in plays at AART and at The Dallas Hub Theater, is the actor as mindful reactor. With fewer lines than the other two characters, Willie must busy himself tidying the tea room, filling salt cellars and doing other little tasks. But with this actor in the role, Willie's actively inside every moment. Watch how Piper tightens his body when the phone rings—it's always Master Harold's mother, barking orders through her son—and how he reflexively drops to his knees and starts polishing the floor. Willie all too well knows his place in the tiny societal microcosm of the tearoom.
Then there's Andrew Bourgeois, a senior theater student at University of North Texas, giving a superb performance in the play's most complex role. As Hally, Bourgeois manages the South African accent admirably and he makes an interesting visual transformation from gangly schoolboy back to playful child (in the memory scenes) and then to cocky young bigot. During Sam's long speech at the end, Bourgeois remains nearly motionless for many minutes. But his eyes fill with tears and you can sense his pulse quickening. As his Hally turns to walk out into the rain, he seems physically aged by what's just happened. He has become Master Harold now, a tortured soul whose childhood has been lost like a kite from a broken string.