My Children! My Africa! – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Athol Fugard is the impassioned voice of his native land of South Africa. At age 90, he is recognized as an outstanding playwright, director, actor and novelist, penning intense, political plays opposing the class system of apartheid, where Blacks have been suppressed by the white ruling leaders. In 1985, TIME named him “the greatest active playwright in the English-speaking world.”

You now have the unique opportunity to be present at one of Athol Fugard’s intense dramas “My Children! My Africa!” until Sunday, October 9 at the Hartbeat Ensemble in Hartford. Melanie Dreyer directs this production that begins as a tiny flame of heat and slowly becomes a serious conflagration.

A dedicated Black teacher known affectionately as Mr M., a masterful Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr., has finally found the student of his dreams, Thami Mbikwana, a bright and engaging Jelani Pitcher. Mr. M. has accepted that white people control the power and Blacks are forced to be racially segregated. The struggles have existed for decades as his people have been victims of white supremacy.

In his own small way, Mr. M. wants to change the odds. As leader of his school’s debate team, where Thami is a rising star, he issues an invitation to a posh private white school to stage a debate. Brianna Joy Ford’s Isabel Dyson is the privileged and quick on her feet competitor to arrive, eager to defend women and their rights in the arena of words.

As Isabel and Thami gain a friendship, the issue of apartheid grows larger and more dangerous until the three are swept into the gripping mouth of its destruction.

For tickets ($25, students $20), call Hartbeat Ensemble, Carriage House Theater, 360 Farmington Avenue, Hartford at 860-548-9144 or online at Performances are Thursday Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 pm. Masks are required. On Wednesday, October 12 at 5:30 p.m., the theater will hold a free “special dialogue event.”

Can democracy reign in a land where the oppressed are not allowed a voice in their own history? Come be swept up in this real and dramatic struggle as only Athol Fugard can tell it.