A Lesson from Aloes – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Despite drought and despair, the aloe plant is a survivor. Much like the South African people for whom the aloe is symbolic, the vegetation can exist in a parched and unforgiving landscape. Peculiar to the aloe are its healing properties where breaking off a spike and freeing its juices can be used to treat burns and for other medicinal purposes.

For Piet and Gladys, an aloe plane is quite unlikely to cure their ills. Despite the fact that Piet collects these succulents and is ecstatic over discovering an unnamed species,, the plant is incapable of healing here. South African playwright Athol Fugard visits their home in Port Elizabeth in 1963 at a time of trauma and change in his drama “A Lesson from Aloes” being sensitively staged at the HartfordStage until Sunday, June 10.

Randall Newsome is the gentleman farmer who happily tends the aloe garden, now that he is no longer a bus driver or an active member of a civil rights movement. Caring for his cacti and for his fragile wife Gladys, a frequently distraught Andrus Nichols, is all he can manage. Quoting poetry and tending to Gladys’ needs, as she recovers from a nervous breakdown, are now his full time occupation.

Once upon a time, Piet was actively involved in advancing the cause of justice and the ending of apartheid. He has seen the devastation of his friend Steve, a fiery Ariyon Bakare,who has witnessed first hand the terrible effects of taking on the establishment. Steve has lost his job as a bricklayer, been arrested for his activities and now is leaving his home with his family to resettle in England. Piet and Gladys have prepared a farewell meal for the occasion.

Revelations and accusations are the main courses at the dinner as secrets are exposed and angry words are shouted into the quiet of the night. Darko Tresnjak directs this powerful cast in a drama where friendship and marriages are tested against a background of political unrest.

For tickets ($25and up), call the HartfordStage, 50 Church Street,Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matineesSaturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Let Athol Fugard be your travel guard into a time in history where injustice ruled and rebellions failed to succeed.