A Soldier’s Play is playing at Theatre 80 located at 80 St. Marks Place. It runs two hours with one intermission. The play closes on October 8, 2017.
It premiered on November 20, 1981 at Theatre Four, now known as Julia Milles Theatre. The play ran for two years and closed on January 2, 1983 after 468 performances. Denzel Washington played Private Peterson and Samuel L. Jackson played Louise Henson.
The play won a Pulitzer Prize, The Outer Critics Award for best of Broadway Play, The New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best American Play and the Obie Award for Distinguished Ensemble Performance.
Charles H. Fuller is the playwright. He won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Charles served in the Army from 1959-1962.
The cast is African American except for three white actors who play Captain Charles Taylor, Lieutenant Bryd and Captain Wilcox.
The place is Fort Neal in Louisiana, 1944.
During this time period the military was racially segregated.
The play opens with Sergeant Vernon C. Waters (Gil Tucker) being killed.
The Army puts off investigating the murder. The primary suspect was the Ku Klux Klan.
Captain Richard Davenport (Chaz Reuben) arrives at the base to investigate the murder six weeks after it happened. The Captain in charge of the base is Charles Taylor (Buck Hinkle) He is surprise they sent an African American and a lawyer. The captain feels he is not going to get any help or information from the town’s people.
Captain Davenport stays strong and will not back down. He talks to the men one by one. The one thing the men agree if it was the Klan killed the sergeant they would have stripped him of his military clothes.
The men do menial jobs around the base. The unit is composed of former”Negro League Baseball Players”. They are a great team and hope to win to play a game against the Yankees.
As Captain Davenport talks to the men he learns about Sergeant Waters and how he puts down the men under him. He especially goes after Private C. J. Memphis (Jimmy Gary Jr) because he represents the racial stereotype. In another instance he takes Private James Wilkie (Fulton Hodges) stripes away from him and promises them back if he sets up Private C. J. up with a bad deed he did not do.
Captain Davenport relentless digging into the murder, we find out who killed Sergeant Waters.
The whole cast does an outstanding job.
Jimmy Gary Jr. touches your heart strings in one scene when he is put in prison. Chaz Rueben shines in his role especially as the narrator. Gil Tucker is so convincing in the role you want to smack him in the face for being so nasty and righteous.
The pay is worth seeing. It still has something to say. Go see it to find out. I felt the second act had more impact and fire on the audience.
Review by Rozanna Radakovich
Photos by Annazor.
To read a candid interview with the cast click on Photos for this and other shows.