MORRIS: You’re horrible.
ZACHARIAH: Sorry, Baas.
MORRIS: You stink.
ZACHARIAH: Please, my Baasie…
MORRIS: What did you mean crawling around like that? Spoiling the view, spoiling my chances! What’s your game, hey? Trying to be an embarrassment? Is that it? A two-legged, bloody embarrassment? Well, we’ll see about that. I hate you, do you hear? Hate!…Hate!…Hate!
He attacks Zachariah savagely with the umbrella.
So goes one of the climactic moments of Athol Fugard’s 1961 play Blood Knot. It’s enough to make anyone shift uncomfortably, no matter who is onstage.
But who’s onstage is exactly what’s causing discomfort and controversy around the current production of Blood Knot at Spring Green, Wisc.’s American Players Theatre. In those moments, Morris (played by Jim DeVita) berates Zachariah (played by Gavin Lawrence), a light-skinned man expressing overt racial hatred toward his dark-skinned counterpart. The problem is that the play says these men are brothers, children of the same black mother, one who can “pass” as white, the other who can’t.