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Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act
Review by Mark Horning | Season Schedule

Also see Mark's reviews of King Lear and Elton John & Tim Rice's Aida

Corin Self, Jill Kenderes and Soren Russell
Photo by Cory Molner
On the floor of a library, in a pool of moonlight, two naked lovers cradle each other in post-coital bliss. They talk as lovers often do. She relates taking his advice of starting her Saturday by washing her hair, then sitting in the sun of her backyard experiencing the various textures as her hair dries in the light breeze, the wine-like smell of over-ripe figs laying on the ground and the sounds of insects, reptiles and birds that she never noticed before. He talks about Saturday being just another day of struggle.

He is Errol Philanderer (Corin Self), a black high school principle who is married and a father. She is Freida Joubert (Jill Kenderes), a white spinster librarian. They met through his love of philosophy and paleontology as she was able to help him gain illegal access to reference books on the subject. Their year-long affair is a punishable crime under the Immorality Act. It is January 11, 1966 in South Africa.

Unbeknownst to the lovers, their secret is not safe. A neighbor to the library has reported the suspicious behavior of a black man unlocking the back door of the library with his own key at dusk when all blacks are supposed to be in their own designated areas. Detective Sergeant J. du Perez is poised with his flash camera wielding constable ready to catch the pair in their illegal act. If convicted, the two face up to seven years in prison.

As the two lovers continue to talk and reminisce about their first meeting it becomes clear that all is not well in their unlawful world of illicit sex. He wants it all: her, his family, his job—everything. She wants to run away with him but the problem is to where?

This is the gist of Harold Athol Fugard's Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act, now on stage at Convergence-Continuum and directed by Terrence Spivey. Fugard is best known for his anti-apartheid plays such as Blood Knot, Boesman and Lena, Master Herold ... and the Boys, My Life and The Coat.

Statements is a work of extremes, from the gentle cooing of lovers to the frenetic bashing down of the door by police and the ensuing flash photography that is projected on the back wall. Jill Kenderes and Corin Self are very comfortable in their bodies, acting as lovers who are familiar with each other would act. This is important since nearly all of the show has them in the buff.

The pair work extremely well together giving very convincing performances as two people who love in spite of the odds and in spite of a script that stresses repetitiveness and at times shows weak writing. Soren Russell as Detective Sergeant comes off a bit too bombastic with an accent that at times becomes nearly indecipherable. Part of the director's job would be to reign him in just a bit.

The library design by Cory Molner is wonderfully detailed, with shelves filled with books, piles of books in the corner, and a cart full of books. There is even a circa 1960s filmstrip projector on the floor underneath the book cart. Cory's lighting design is also spot on, ranging from the soft moon-like glow to frantic strobe and finally full revealing light.

What costuming there is by Harold Crawford has Philanderer's clothes carefully folded in a neat pile while Joubert's are strewn across the set giving clues to each other's personality types. Kudos for Harold on finding a necktie for the Detective Sergeant that totally fits his personality.

While nudity is a huge part of this work, it is done in such a tasteful and natural way that after first blush you begin to focus on the characters rather than on their nakedness.

The South African Immorality Act of 1957 was simply the tip of the apartheid iceberg that totally controlled the lives of the majority of blacks by the minority of those of European ancestry. This play was first performed in 1972 (thirteen years before the repeal of the act) and brought worldwide attention to the evils of apartheid. Now, it is seen as a quaint history lesson.

While at times the script is less than strong, the natural performances of the two principles helps make this seventy-five minute theater experience time well spent. The nearly Shakespearean theme of illicit romance tells the tale of generations of oppressed blacks and the whites who loved them during apartheid in South Africa in a way all can understand.

Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act, through June 15, 2019, at Convergence-Continuum's Liminis Theater, 2438 Scranton Road, Cleveland OH. For tickets and information visit www.convergence-continuum,org or call (216) 687-0074

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