South African playwright Athol Fugard’s “Blood Knot,” the first show in the Mosaic Theater Company’s South Africa repertory, does a phenomenal job of taking viewers on a whirlwind encounter that allows each attendee to experience apartheid.
Set in a dimly-lit shack in 1961, two brothers, one light-skinned and one dark, comes to grips with the reality that though they share the same blood, they are very separate in terms of color, as one brother is able to adapt, or “pass,” in heavily segregated South Africa.
The Joy Zinoman-directed play opens begins one year after Morris (Tom Story) has returned to the impoverished “colored” neighborhood where he and his brother Zachariah (Nathan Hinton) both grew up.
Though bound by blood, both men had different fathers, which in turn allows for Morris, the lighter-skinned brother, to “pass” for a white South African.
Morris (played by Tom Story) finds himself in an unusual identity crisis, wanting to remain loyal to his hardworking brother Zachariah (played by Nathan Hinton), but envisioning himself living the high-caliber life of a rich white man.
After years away, Morris returns to his brother, leading daily household chores with devotion including post-work foot baths for Zachariah, preparing dinner, and reading the Bible before bed, while Zachariah makes little money doing menial work.
With daily rituals in practice, Zachariah soon expresses boredom and the longing for a female companion. Slightly concerned, Morris suggests acquiring a female pen pal, and Zachariah immediately begins to correspond with a “well-developed” 18-year-old woman, with the necessary help of Morris, who unlike Zachariah can read and write.
Enjoying his newfound time with his female pen pal, the two brothers soon make a startling discovery, realizing that Zachariah’s new pen pal, “Miss Ethel Lange,” is a white woman.
Though both brothers are very aware of the scrutiny and chaos an interracial relationship would breed in the apartheid country, it is Morris who convinces Zachariah not to contact her any longer, finding such a partnership inconceivable, even through the mail.
Convinced that there must be some other way, Zachariah spends the last of the two brothers’ savings on an elaborate suit and persuades Morris to attempt to pass as a white lover for Miss Ethel.
Horrifically, however, whenever Morris puts on the “white man’s suit,” he subconsciously becomes full of “white rage” and begins to refer to his brother as a “nigger.”
In the final scene, both brothers receive a final letter from Mrs. Ethel stating her new engagement to someone else. The brothers then find themselves bound in a strange relationship, tainted by the mental effects of apartheid, unsure of the future.