Thursday October 19th 2017

“A Soldier’s Play”

soldierHighly Recommended***** In our school years, when learning about World War II, it is very seldom that any teachers touched on the African American soldiers of the era and how they were involved. Today I attended a funeral , one of a “survivor” of the atrocities of the Natzi’s. Most of what I learned in my school days was about this part of the war, which when I was in school was not that far back in history. Over the years since, through literature and plays, I have come to learn that there were  Black soldiers as well. The army during this period was in reality a “White Man’s Army”, where the African American soldiers were segregated and used for meager jobs rather than allowed to fight. In Charles Fuller’s, tense drama,” A Soldier’s Play” now on stage at The Raven Theatre, we get to see another side of the United States military during a major war. We are in Louisiana, during the war, when a Black Sergeant is  murdered. The Army has decided to have a Black officer, who is also a lawyer, handle the investigation, all hell breaks loose.

Directed by Michael Menendian, this terse drama has lots of emotion, some comic touches, some great fight scenes (  (David Woolley) on a set that allows us to see many different areas of the base with no actual changes being made ( Andrei Onegin). The murder of Sergeant Waters ( a dynamite performance by Antoine Oierre Whitfield) is what brings  Captain Davenport ( Deftly handled by Frank Pete) to the base. After a small confrontation with the White Captain, who is unhappy that the brass has re-opened the investigation. Captain Davenport sets up in the Negro barracks as he interviews each of the enlisted men about the incident in question and others that led up to it. The interviews are flashbacks and through them we learn about the attitudes of the men, the rules that they must follow and the hardness of the Black Sergeant on his own people. He may be the most prejudice of the entire base staff as it is his feeling that these men must be more than the “White” soldiers.

During the flashbacks, we learn that many of the soldiers were brought to this camp to play baseball and they were very good. While they got along on the field, they came from different backgrounds and life-styles, so off the field, not so much!. The sergeant did “ride” them a lot and that caused some problems between the men. One man had worked hard to earn hos own sergeant stripes, but had them taken away over a drunken night on the town by Waters. There was another skirmish where a White soldier was killed by a Black soldier and the wrong man accused, who later, while in  the stockade hung himself. As we watch all of the flashbacks and learn more about each of these soldiers and the base itself, we start to see and learn more about the pressures placed on each and every one of these men, some by the system and others self-inflicted.                                                                                                           soldier1

I will not tell you the final outcome of the story, a sit would ruin the flow of action for you, should you see it, and I do suggest that you find the time in your busy schedules to see this excellent production. What a cast! In addition to Whitfield and Pete ( who are worth the price of admission alone) we have a solid cast of players: Tamarus Harvell,Scott Allen Luke, Bradford Stevens, Nicholas Bailey, Brian Keys,Carthy Dixon, Rashawn Thompson ( who many of you will recognize from Black Ensemble, not singing inn this role), Tim Walsh, Erik Walker and Kory Pullam- gentleman, I salute you!

From start to finish ( a little under two hours) this is a solid show. In fact, even the curtain calls are handled true military style. Barvo! The original music by Leif Olsen, the sound (Marie C. Quinn), the lighting (Diane D. Fairchild), costumes (JoAnn Montemurro) and props/set dressing (Mary O’Dowd) truly makes this a show as near to perfections as one will see in any of our storefront theaters. A “class” production that entertains as well as teaches, what more can one ask?

Raven Theatre is in its 30th year and its objective has always been to bring new life into old classics and to explore works that illuminate the American experience. This production takes us into a world that is unknown to most of us and I for one want to learn more about this period in our history and why it was kept from us in the past. Perhaps Facing History and Ourselves can do more with this so that our teachers can be taught to teach this to our young students ( of all races).

“A Soldier’s Play” will continue at The Raven Theatre located at 6157 N. Clark Street ( at Granville) through  March 30th with performances as follows:

Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $36, but students pay only $15,Seniors $31 and active military and veterans $15.

To purchase tickets call 773-338-2177 or visit www.raventheatre.com

There is FREE parking at the theater and the number 22 bus stops at the door. There are some dining spots within a block or two on Clark and at the opening we were introduced to The Pumping Company located just East on Granville and Broadway where we tasted some of their specialties ,pulled BBQ pork ( on a pretzel bun) Turkey Rueben and some other delish looking items that I would have gotten to had it not been for the pulled pork ( one of my favorites)

To see what others say about this production which I think will fill up ( so do not delay on ordering your seats) visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and clisk  on ” A Soldier’s Play”

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