It’s raining outside. Take refuge in St. George’s Park Tearoom in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, on a wet day in 1950, and eavesdrop on the scene: White teenager Hally is trying to write an essay on a significant cultural event, while his father’s black servants Sam and Willie take a break from mopping the floor to suggest a daring topic: the upcoming New Brighton ballroom dance contest, in which the contestants are black. “There’s no collisions out there” on the dance floor, says the middle-aged Sam, Hally’s mentor, who took pity on the young boy’s neglect by an alcoholic, crippled father. What an ideal contrast to the world outside, where apartheid has just recently become national policy. But as the three philosophize and reminisce about Hally’s childhood, the very intimate familiarity of the tearoom is punctured by phone calls in which we learn that Hally’s father has been released prematurely from the hospital and will need round-the-clock care. Hally’s resentful sense of entitlement feeds first a flippant condescension and then a vicious racial contempt that explodes in a wounding confrontation with his black friends.
Director Manu Mukasa and Oakland Public Theater/Second Wind Productions bring the timely autobiographical Athol Fugard play “Master Harold” … and the Boys to Jack London Square’s Metro Theatre for four weekends through early September. Unlike previous productions, which emphasized the ravages of racism and made a plea for understanding, Mukasa would like theatergoers to sit in that tearoom and ask themselves, “What does it take for any one of us to completely abandon our own humanity — even if just for a moment?” Nobody needs to be living under official apartheid to see how we are all still implicated.
Both OPT and Second Wind are relatively new to the Bay Area, although the latter was founded seventeen years ago in Colorado by Mukasa and Ian Walker (who plays Sam). OPT is known for its performances for underserved children at Oakland’s rapidly dwindling libraries. Come in out of the rain and help support Oakland’s striving theater scene. 510-534-9529 or OaklandMetro.org — Frako Loden
Istanbul: Sunset on the minarets of the Sultanahmet mosque. The view from Topkapi Palace. Boat horns on the Bosphorus. The majestic serenity of the Blue Mosque. The evocative poetry of Orhan Veli Kanik. The influential Turkish poet’s work still has the power to entrance, as you can witness Thursday evening when Grace Martin and Richard Schwarzenberger, translators of Veli Kanik’s work, read a selection of his poems in Turkish and English, with slides of the ancient city of Istanbul projected on the wall, at Berkeley’s Easy Going Travel Shop & Bookstore. The free reading, titled Listening to Istanbul , takes place at 7:30 p.m. at 1385 Shattuck Ave. (at Rose). Info: 510-843-3533. — Kelly Vance
Death Row Shakes
What was William Shakespeare’s position on the death penalty? If we knew it, could we prevent him from running for governor? These and many other questions will be answered Sunday, when Cal Shakespeare Theater presents two experts on the Bard of Avon — UCB professor emeritus Hugh Richmond and author Velma Bourgeois Richmond — to discuss “Crime and Forgiveness: Does Shakespeare Reject the Death Penalty?” The Cal Shakes InSight talk happens immediately after the 4 p.m. matinee of Measure for Measure, at approximately 6:30 p.m. Admission is free, even if you don’t attend the play. Bruns Amphitheater, Gateway Boulevard off Highway 24, Orinda. CalShakes.org or 510-548-9666. — Kelly Vance
Nobody knows weird like those in the throes of adolescence — the world looks and acts strange, so you act appropriately. The Berkeley Public Library’s Teen Playreaders prove that point dramatically this weekend and next with Bizarre Shorts at the North Branch (1170 The Alameda), a program of “brief plays and scenes long on absurdity.” Folks twelve and older are invited to check out works ranging from David Ives to Baudelaire, plus two Playreader originals, each selected by the teens themselves and many directed by them, as well. Another, totally different program will be presented next Saturday. Both performances are two hours long and start at 7:30 p.m. Infopeople.org/bpl or 510-981-6250. — Stefanie Kalem