“A Lesson From Aloes” produced by Thalia’s Umbrella, playing in The Isaac Studio Theatre at Taproot Theatre

I’ve been away for the past two weeks, left the day “A Lesson From Aloes” opened. So I couldn’t see it until last night (Oct. 23). And now there are just three performances left. Take my advice and make every effort to see one of those remaining shows. Written by Athol Fugard, the celebrated contemporary South African playwright, and performed with exquisite precision, it’s a distinguished theatre experience.

The aloe is a plant, a survivor in a harsh landscape. It’s prickly and tolerant of difficult conditions. In this intense and emotionally charged play that takes place in the apartheid South Africa of the 1960s, three characters find that their survival in that environment is even more difficult: Piet a man of Boer heritage, Gladys, his wife, who comes from English stock, and their friend Steve, a black man whose heritage is as native to the land as are the aloes.

The festering sore that was South African racial politics damages each one. Yet it is Steve who is uprooting his family, leaving his homeland for England. They come together for a celebratory dinner before his departure.

Piet is dug into the country as surely as are the aloes he collects. Terry Edward Moore brings to the role a quiet dignity. He’s a man with the soul of a poet, scarred by the political and social realities of his country.

Pam Nolte as Gladys, Piet’s English wife, epitomizes “a woman on the verge.” She’s had her breakdown and now desperately strives to maintain her grasp on the sanity or the emotional stability that keeps slipping out of her control. Nolte gracefully captures this tightly coiled, deeply wounded shell of a human.

William Hall, Jr. as Steve has, of course, suffered most under the fetid politics of his beloved country. Hall shows noteworthy reserve as he makes clear the personal cost of uprooting his family, leaving the land he loves, the land of is ancestors, the land that offers no hope for him, his children, and their children.

The play is powerful, a feast for the thinking man or woman. The acting is finely polished, and the accents are superb. Voice Coach Stephanie Kallos has helped the actors capture their characters’ country and their place within that country. Altogether this is too good to miss.

Through Oct. 26 at The Isaac Studio Theatre at Taproot Theatre, 804 N. 85th St., Seattle, (206 781-9707 or www.thaliasumbrella.org).

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