A Soldier’s Play at Raven Theatre | Theater review
Raven delivers an engaging revival of Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer-winning military procedural.
Charles Fuller’s 1982 Pulitzer winner follows an investigation led by Cpt. Richard Davenport (Frank Pete) into the murder of a black soldier, Sgt. Vernon C. Waters (Antoine Pierre Whitfield), at a Louisiana military base. Cpt. Davenport is also a black officer—a rarity in 1944, when the U.S. Army was still segregated. Through various soldiers’ testimonies, we piece together Sgt. Waters’s character and the circumstances surrounding his death. Race comes into play, but not in the way you might expect. A frank portrayal of resentment and bigotry among members of the same race gives the play a bit more heft than the typical whodunit, though it doesn’t really cover much more ground than an episode of Law & Order. It might have been groundbreaking in the early ’80s. Today, it can feel a bit tired.
Raven Theatre still pulls off a fine production. The staging and design work together beautifully to define the past and present worlds, keeping the transitions clear and maintaining the play’s driving pace. The cast’s strong performances and consistent attention to military ritual lend a notable degree of authenticity. The infantry is a joy to watch, while Whitfield’s Sgt. Waters, oscillating between warmth and frightening intensity, captures the character’s menace. Though Raven’s production probably won’t shake your conception of theater, it might spark some lively discussion.