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THEATER BEAT

'Blood Knot' Retains Power at Complex

April 23, 1993

Almost a quarter century after it was written, Athol Fugard's "Blood Knot" is still a powerful, insightful examination of racial problems. The tone and shadings of this production at the Complex are not as dark as in some stagings of the play, but its lightness provides interesting insights.

Two brothers, with the same mother but different fathers, confront life in South Africa from a revealing viewpoint. One is black, the other white enough to pass, which he has done for several years before guilt forces him to return and join his brother's struggle for survival.

Dark-skinned Zach (Don Cheadle) exists simply, his menial job and makeshift hut all he expects of life. Morrie (David H. Duensing) has other thoughts. His time on the other side of the racial barrier has given him uppity ideas. One of them, an effort to get Zach out of his rut, almost turns to disaster.

The question is one of dreams gone awry, of self-respect crushed under a boot heel. Cheadle (uncredited as director in the program) understands the delicate balance of humor and control in the brothers' relationship, and if he hasn't looked for the darkness in the script, he has found the bones of the conflict. Those bones click and clack against each other with efficiency in this production, and Fugard's bitterness is not hidden by Cheadle's tone. It is an ultimately effective approach, and both actors give it life and purpose.

* "Blood Knot," Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Ends May 2. $10; (213) 464-2124. Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes.

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