BOSTON ARTS REVIEW
QUICK TAKE REVIEW
By Beverly Creasey
SOLDIERS ON STAGE,
FRONT AND CENTER
Two Pulitzer Prize winning plays opened this past week—and both have soldiers at their core.
A SOLDIER’S PLAY (@ Roxbury Repertory Theater through Nov. 2nd) is an eloquent whodunit of the first order which takes place in a segregated army unit in the South during WWII. A sergeant has been shot and lynched and there’s talk about involvement of the KKK.
Charles Fuller’s A SOLDIER’S PLAY, although it was written some 30 years ago, seems just as relevant today for its themes of discrimination and corruption in the military. Fuller sets the play before true integration in the armed services so you have African-American troops under white leadership when the story begins. As we know, racism is still pervasive today …and now you can add sexism to the –isms which haunt the military. What makes Fuller’s play unique is how racism is turned inward to feed on the soul.
Director Marshall Hughes gets rewarding resonance from casting a female in one of the soldier’s roles. She plays it as written (after all, women in the army today are just “soldiers”) and you immediately go along, the ensemble is so strong and the story so compelling. Television and stage veteran Daver Morrison leads the cast as the army lawyer assigned to investigate the murder. Morrison gives a powerful performance as the cool captain who never loses his head, even when white superior officers try to have him dismissed from the case for being Black.
If you’ve seen the play before, you haven’t seen it like this. Hughes employs ingenious shadow play (on stage and on the side walls of the theater) to ratchet up the suspense and amplify the brutality in the piece, making it much more visceral.
See it for a fresh look at an important play and see it for the crackerjack performances: From Damon Singletary’s hateful, yet pitiful sergeant to David J. Curtis’ gentle, tragic blues strummer. From Geraldo Portillo’s seething dissenter to Bruce Drexel Smith’s toadying right hand man. From Ezra Stevens’ defensive corporal to Emerald Johnson’s earnest private. Everyone in the company contributes to this remarkable production.