“Master Harold” . . . and the boys, Victory Gardens Theater

March 27 – May 5, 1985

By Athol Fugard
Directed by Chuck Smith

Role: Willie


As Hallie (Bruce Norris) has a heated conversation with his mother, Sam (Tony Stokes) and Willie (Johnny Lee Davenport) look on. (PHOTO: Jennifer Girard)


While Sam (Tony Stokes) reads a comic, Willie (Johnny Lee Davenport) practices his ballroom dancing skills with a mop. (PHOTO: Jennifer Girard)


As Willie, continuing to practice with his mop (PHOTO: Jennifer Girard)

Davenport, as the mentally shortchanged Willie, is, like Stokes, sometimes fiercely moving  . . . when these actors come together, they make for some strong moments. And given the current South African ills and the timeliness of this revival (the play first was presented in 1982), Fugard`s lectures seem all the more timeless. ‘Every age has social reformers,’ Hally reads from a textbook early on, and Sam replies: ‘Oh, so where are ours?’”
—Sid Smith, Chicago Tribune (March 28, 1985)

“In the smaller role of Willie, Johnny Lee Davenport is very good.”
—Lloyd Sachs, Chicago Sun-Times (March 28, 1985)

“The play, then, with its sweet humor and severe pain, is one of the most moving dramas of the 20th century. It could survive even the worst production. But it has had some spectacular ones, one in New York with Fugard’s company members, and one in Chicago with James Earl Jones. Added to that illustrious roster is the production at Victory Gardens. The production is so filed with life—with love, humor, ambivalence, and terror—that I could hardly see, at its end, to walk out of the theatre. Such magnificent timing and control is rarely seen on the Chicago stage, and by three relatively unknown actors.
sssssIn a sense, Johnny Lee Davenport may have the toughest role. He is on stage every minute with but a few lines. His presence is always felt, but as a silent, supportive companion to the others.”
—Jean Nathan, Lincoln Park Spectator (April 2, 1985)

“Willie has the fewest lines in the play, but he’s central to the theme of book smarts versus real smarts. Johnny Lee Davenport is right on target as Willie—hulking, artless, and honorable. Davenport’s Willie is a gentle giant—physically at peace.”
—Pamela Marin, Chicago Reader (April 5, 1985)

Johnny Lee Davenport is quietly persuasive as Sam’s fellow servant, Willie, who is preoccupied with an upcoming ballroom dancing competition.
sssssSerious theatergoers who appreciate finely honed ensemble work in a play so overwhelming in its impact that it takes on a life of its own and transports us to another place and time won’t want to miss Fugard’s knockout drama.”
—Fred Nuccio, A Lerner Booster Newspaper (Week of April 10, 1985)

“The Victory Gardens’ Theatre production of ‘Master Harold’ . . . and the boys is marvelous. It far out-paces the road company that brought James Earl Jones to town a couple of seasons ago.
sssssJohnny Lee Davenport is superb. His portrayal lifts the role of the gentle Willie to a new plane.”
—Stu Feiler, News/Voice (April 11, 1985)

“As quiet, attentive Willie, Johnny Lee Davenport provides solid counter-weight in a performance that’s noble simply because it’s natural.”
—Lawrence Bommer, Windy City Times

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