Diamonds in the rough

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  January 13, 2010

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.

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  | 
  Topics: Theater , Entertainment, American Repertory Theater, Lifestyle,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY CAROLYN CLAY
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   ARTSEMERSON'S METAMORPHOSIS  |  February 28, 2013
    Gisli Örn Garðarsson’s Gregor Samsa is the best-looking bug you will ever see — more likely to give you goosebumps than make your skin crawl.
  •   CLEARING THE AIR WITH STRONG LUNGS AT NEW REP  |  February 27, 2013
    Lungs may not take your breath away, but it's an intelligent juggernaut of a comedy about sex, trust, and just how many people ought to be allowed to blow carbon into Earth's moribund atmosphere.
  •   MORMONS, MURDERERS, AND MARINERS: 10 THEATER SENSATIONS COMING TO BOSTON STAGES THIS SPRING  |  February 28, 2013
    Mitt Romney did his Mormon mission in France. But there are no baguettes or croissants to dip into the lukewarm proselytizing of bumbling elders Price and Cunningham, two young men sent by the Church of Latter-day Saints to convert the unfaithful of a Ugandan backwater in The Book of Mormon .
  •   THE HUMAN STAIN: LIFE AND DEATH IN MIDDLETOWN  |  February 22, 2013
    The New York Times dubbed Will Eno a “Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.”
  •   ZEITGEIST STAGE COMPANY'S LIFE OF RILEY  |  February 22, 2013
    Sir Alan Ayckbourn has written more than 70 plays, most of which turn on an intricate trick of chronology or geography.

 See all articles by: CAROLYN CLAY