Audience members attending the opening night of the 2020 Tony Award-winning Best Revival of “A Soldier’s Play” at the Ahmanson Theater were treated to an exceptional theatrical experience. The production featured an incredible cast led by the talented Norm Lewis as Captain Richard Davenport and the original Bernard Cobb, Eugene Lee, in the role of Sergeant Vernon C. Waters. Under the direction of Tony Award winner Kenny Leon, this performance proved to be a powerful and thought-provoking journey for audience members.
Written by American playwright Charles Fuller, “A Soldier’s Play” is set in 1944 on a Louisiana Army base. The play opens with the murder of a Black sergeant, setting off a series of interrogations that delve into themes of sacrifice, service, and identity in America. As audience members witnessed the investigation unfold, they were immersed in the complexities of race, power, and justice within the military during a time of segregation and discrimination.
Norm Lewis captivated the audience with his commanding performance as Captain Richard Davenport, the determined investigator seeking the truth behind the murder. Through his portrayal, audience members could sense the internal conflicts faced by his character, navigating the racially divided environment with determination and empathy.
Eugene Lee’s reprisal of the role of Sergeant Vernon C. Waters was a true highlight of the production. With his rich and commanding voice, Lee brought a strong presence to the stage, capturing the complexities and conflicts of a man wrestling with his own identity and the challenges of racial prejudice. The audience was captivated by Lee’s portrayal, experiencing the weight of his character’s experiences and the impact of systemic racism.
The supporting cast delivered outstanding performances, bringing authenticity and depth to their characters. Will Adams as Corporal Bernard Cobb, Brandon Alvión as an understudy, and the rest of the ensemble contributed memorable portrayals, adding layers of complexity to the narrative. Their performances heightened the tension and emotional resonance of the play, leaving a lasting impact on the audience.
The production design, including Derek McLane’s sets, Dede Ayite’s costumes, Allen Lee Hughes’ lights, and Dan Moses Schreier’s sound, was exceptional. The meticulously designed sets transported the audience to the 1940s military base, while the costumes and lighting enhanced the atmosphere and mood of each scene. The sound design further immersed the audience in the tense and dramatic moments of the play.
Kenny Leon’s direction masterfully guided the production, seamlessly weaving together the intricate storytelling and capturing the emotional intensity of the characters. His attention to detail and ability to create compelling stage pictures ensured that every moment resonated with the audience, immersing them in the narrative.
“A Soldier’s Play” is a timely and important piece of theater that forces audience members to confront the realities of racial inequality and discrimination. Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning script remains as relevant today as it was when it was first written. The Roundabout Theatre Company’s production honored the play’s themes and delivered a powerful and thought-provoking experience to the audience.
This production is highly recommend to theater enthusiasts and anyone interested in thought-provoking dramas that tackle important social issues. Norm Lewis, Eugene Lee, and the entire cast delivered exceptional performances that left a lasting impact on the audience. The play’s exploration of race, identity, and justice sparked introspection and ignited important conversations among audience members long after the final curtain call.