The setting is Garnet Lodge, a guesthouse on the remote western coast of South Africa. When the desert flowers, tourists do show up. But right now it's the foggy dead of winter, the owners have decamped to Cape Town, and black gardener Thami is playing host to a single guest, an aging, apparently prosperous white man at the wheel of a big car. Ensuring, however, that this is no Driving Miss Daisy is ebulliently intimidating handyman and part-time diamond diver Johan, a white ex-cop who did time for police brutality but who seems sincerely attached to Thami, whose life he wants to better as a sort of recompense. Thami and Johan have a scheme to buy a government-subsidized alluvial diamond-mining concession and make their fortunes. Alas, they lack capital; the sea has failed to "cough up" a gem that might constitute a down payment; and the pair have yet to resort to what Thami calls the "informal" method of illegal diamond procurement. Smith, the guest, looks like an investor to Johan, and, whether by hook or by crook, white guilt or mortal fear, he does not intend to let him say no.
Daniel Gidron is at the helm of a production that neither loosens nor gets careless with its trigger finger. It also finds a giddy energy, a sly humor, and surprising pathos in its mostly well-meaning characters, who've been pushed by desperation toward false hope (the diamond concessions have been declared spent by their former owners) and bad behavior. Moreover, all three actors field convincing, comprehensible South African accents, with Jason Bowen a fundamentally decent if not scrupulously honest, open-faced Thami and Timothy John Smith's Johan a scary mix of threat and bonhomie who turns out to be the play's saddest character. As Smith, the retired-investment-banker guest with little yen to become a venture capitalist, the excellent Richard McElvain takes an unconventional approach, turning the spat-out businessman — who spent his flourishing years giving to liberal causes before losing his cushy job to a black man — into a tweedy milquetoast with a nervous, eccentric little laugh, a man whose savagery, when it comes in bounds and growls, is an eye opener.
, Entertainment, American Repertory Theater, Lifestyle, More