Written by Elizabeth Foster
A riveting, powerful tragedy where right and wrong collide and truth prevails just in time. This engaging marvelous dramatization of Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize winning drama brings to the forefront frustrations of 12 African American soldiers trapped in a segregated US Army camp during World War II. Rather then in the combat role they yearned, they are relegated to mundane support tasks stateside in the war to stop Hitler’s Germany.
Based loosely on Fuller’s experiences in the army, it was too controversial for Broadway in 1982. It debuted off Broadway, became a movie, and thankfully is revived now on Broadway. The raw truth is exposed for society to see past injustices in a teachable piece evoking somber reflection. Set in Jim Crow Louisiana, these soldiers led by Sergeant Vernon C. Waters (David Alan Grier) suffer in the aftermath of Waters’ murder. Captain Richard Davenport (Blair Underwood) struggles with the white leadership of segregated military structures to investigate and discover the truth of Water’s murder. Tension is palpable, nerves frayed, and painful stereotypes emerge in exploring the complex frustrations and issues facing young soldiers clearly denied the means to fight for America in ways they choose.
Flashbacks of the Sergeant’s interactions with his men before his death highlight his own frustrations and how he characterized to his men just how young blacks should behave if they are going to be successful in a white man’s world. His friction with some of the men leads us in many directions as we attempt to identify the murderer and motives ourselves. White officer Lieutenant Byrd (Nate Mann) tries to help Captain Davenport unravel the mystery by suggesting some expedient choices based on little evidence.
Our final views of Sergeant Water’s tragic demise are heartbreaking, sympathetic and poignant. While we discover the murderer, it’s just another ruined life. The men finally get their wish. All die in combat.
A Soldier’s Play – written by Charles Fuller
With – David Alan Grier(Sergeant Vernon C. Waters), Jerry O’Connell( Captain Charles Taylor), Nnamdi Asomugha(Private First Class MelvinPeterson), McKinley Belcher III(Private Louis Henson), Jared Grimes(Private Tony Smalls), Nate Mann(Lieutenant Boyd), J. Alphonse Nicholson(Captain Richard Davenport), Blair Underwood (Captain Richard Davenport), Rob Demery(Corporal Bernard Cobb), Billy Eugene Jones(Private James Wilkie), Warner Miller(Corporal Ellis), Lee Aaron Rosen(Captain Wilcox).
Artistic Director Todd Haimes, Playwright Charles Fuller, Costume Design Dede Ayite, Sound Design Dan Moses Schreier, Fight Choreographer Thomas Schall, Director Kenny Leon, Set Design Derek McLane, Lighting Design Allen Lee Hughes, Dialect Consultant Kate Wilson, Production Stage Manager Kate Wilson.
A Soldiers Play is presented through March 15, 2020 at the American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St, between 7th and 8th Avenues. Tickets range from $59-299, information at 212.719.1300 or https://www.roundabouttheatre.org/get-tickets/find-tickets/. Runtime: 110 minutes with intermission.