Mooi Street Moves

One of the most highly polished entries in a career of fine, neglected plays about race

Clive Chafer's semihomeless Theatrefirst company turns the elegant patio room of the Berkeley City Club (where Aurora Theatre once played) into a laundry-and-shoebox-cluttered squat for a biting drama about homelessness and displacement in post-apartheid South Africa. Mooi Street Moves shows a white farm boy, Henry, returning to an apartment his brother used to rent, but finding in his place a dreadlocked, cheerful, and deeply unhelpful African named Stix. This suburban neighborhood of Johannesburg has been abandoned by middle-class Afrikaners and overtaken by Africans in a sudden sort of white flight, mainly because of inadequate civil rights legislation in the aftermath of apartheid (according to director Clive Chafer's useful notes). Stix survives as a thieving middleman; he fills the squat with boxes of TVs, shoes, and toasters for resale. Henry himself is homeless, so to live with Stix and earn money he learns the patter and moves of a street hustler -- "Mooi Street moves." Paul Slabolepszy is one of South Africa's leading playwrights, and under Chafer's crisp direction, not to mention pitch-perfect acting by David Skillman (as Stix) and Joseph Foss (as Henry), his brief, slightly contrived pas de deux comes on bright and strong. Chafer has made a local career of mounting fine, neglected plays about race from every corner of the former British Empire -- India, Israel, South Africa, even England itself -- and Mooi Street is one of his most highly polished.

 
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