Afraid of the light: Athol Fugard’s unsettling play about love in the time of apartheid

A black man, a white woman and a cruelly indifferent cop — Theater Schmeater’s “Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act” is a dimly lit, mostly nude and chilling look at a love affair in South Africa.

The play, like most plays, begins in complete darkness.

But the darkness of “Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act” by South African writer Athol Fugard stays dark — with a few exceptions — while two apartheid-era lovers loll nude on a small stage while having an hourlong conversation about everything from racism to idle walks in the countryside.

The few exceptions to the darkness, coordinated by lighting designer Dave Hastings: a match lit by one lover, a romantic pool of moonlight on one corner of the small stage (where the actors occasionally stray and confirm the viewer’s suspicion that they are not, in fact, wearing underwear).

Theater review

“Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act”

Theater Schmeater, 2125 Third Ave., Seattle; $24-$30 (800-838-3006 or schmee.org).

Those are the nice lights.

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Then come violent flashes from the camera of an invading policeman (Chris Shea) while he documents the crime of a black man (Darien Torbert) found naked in the bedroom of a white woman (Amanda Rae) and a roving searchlight from above, tracking the quivering lovers as they babble to themselves or a jury or both (it’s hard to tell) about the series of events that led them into each other’s arms.

Their affair began in a library. But apartheid, apparently, has no tolerance for a love forged between bookshelves.

Like Kafka’s “The Trial” and Marx’s “Capital,” the title of Fugard’s “Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act” has a cold, legalistic flintiness that instantly conveys the fact that real human beings — who might have enjoyed a cup of tea that morning, or washed their bodies in a nearby stream — suffer under the indifference of bureaucracies that were, ostensibly, developed to protect them.

Theater Schmeater’s production of “Arrest” is OK — just OK, though Rae and Torbert (co-directed by Emily Marie Harvey and Jordan-Michael Whidbey) give brave and bold performances. She’s nervous from the beginning, asking him to wait to leave the house so fewer people will notice. He has the bewildered and dismissive aspect of someone who’s thinking, but isn’t…

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