My Children! My Africa!

My Children! My Africa!, 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; $8-$15. Celebration Arts Theatre; 4469 D Street, Through August 29.
Rated 4.0

Usually when you say a play’s all talk and no action, it’s a bad thing. But when the talk comes from the pen of South African playwright Athol Fugard, it’s brilliant and beautiful and inspiring.

In his play My Children! My Africa!, now on stage at Celebration Arts, Fugard debates the emotional and intellectual struggle of those hoping to change the evil system of apartheid that rules their lives. It is appropriate that the play begins with an actual debate, one staged by a teacher, Mr. M (impeccably played by Maszaba Carter), between Thami (a strong and secure Tory Scroggins), a black male student from a poor township school and Isabel, a white female from a posh school in the city (played a little too actorly by Liz Frederick). Their subject is the question of equality between the sexes, but it is clear that the real topic is much broader.

Mr. M is old school. He works for change through education, a gradual shaping of the mind of younger generations. Mr. M’s protégé Thami is a bright student who gradually comes to believe that violence is required, a position that inevitably ends their relationship and leads to a devastating conclusion. Isabel, as many whites sympathetic to the anti-apartheid cause did, stands by helplessly, not sure how—or if—she can help.

The play consists mainly of dialogues and long monologues, occasionally becoming uncharacteristically teachy-preachy, but the play strongly advances Fugard’s belief in the power of hope and the potential of youth.