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A REVIEW: SLT's 'A Soldier's Play' is an honest look at human behavior

BY JANE COLLINS
Special to The Sumter Item
Posted 2/15/20

Sumter Little Theatre's current production, the 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama "A Soldier's Play," is a thought-provoking and honest look at human behavior and attitudes.

Though much of the play's tension stems from the historical climate set …

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A REVIEW: SLT's 'A Soldier's Play' is an honest look at human behavior

Posted

Sumter Little Theatre's current production, the 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama "A Soldier's Play," is a thought-provoking and honest look at human behavior and attitudes.

Though much of the play's tension stems from the historical climate set in Louisiana in 1944 at a U.S. Army base, basic concepts of distrust, human nature and perceived inequalities still exist in many places. The play is not for the closed-minded but encourages the belief that people can be honest and trusted; people can have expectations and the desire to be proud.

Eric Bultman's direction makes the play run smoothly through the actual time period and flashbacks, using the raised platform at the center as a major point of emphasis. The Sumter Item's Feb. 11 article "SLT presents murder mystery that explores racism, right vs. wrong," by Ivy Moore, gives insight into the actors and the general concepts of the play. One statement in particular focuses on the significance of the play, written by black playwright Charles Fuller: "It's about men struggling to do what's right, to understand what is right." It is also about man's proclivity of making judgments not just about other groups but among themselves as well.

Carlos Waters as Technical Sgt. Vernon C.Waters reveals the black man's obsession with improving the standing of black people in society: "When this war's over, things are going to change ... I'm sending both of them [son and daughter] to some big white man's college. Let 'em rub elbows with the white man's language ... otherwise we'll be left behind."

Waters creates a believable, complex character - sober, irate and drunk. Michael Keenan as Charles Taylor, a white captain, uses excellent body language in conveying his hostility toward black Capt. Richard Davenport, played by William Paul Brown. Both actors maintain the tension and personality of their characters. Don Allen Phillips' facial and stage mannerisms add humor and authenticity to his character Corp. Bernard Cobb. As countrified soldier/singer C.J. Memphis, Sean Hatcher, convincingly plays the guitar and establishes the almost naive, talented ball player caught in an environment beyond his understanding. Brandon Graves as Private James Wilkie gives a strong confession of his opinion of Waters. Clifton Montgomery (Private Louis Henson) and David Contee (Cpl. Ellis) deliver their roles with precision. C.J. Waters as Private Tony Smalls appears appropriately trapped in a situation beyond his control. Throughout his dialogue and confrontations, Emmanuel Weston as Private 1st Class Melvin Peterson maintains a consistent level of disdain and attitude. George Carruth (Lt. Byrd) does a good job at delivering his role as a white racist relating to the situation from the standpoint of preconceived attitudes while Jack Burnett (Captain Wilcox) serves as hesitant and uncertain of their treatment of Waters.

"A Soldier's Play" enables the audience to revisit historically "touchy" attitudes and behavior, to assess diversity of human character and desires, and to evaluate progress toward human understanding. It is not a play for Archie Bunker mentality or for the young because strong language - though appropriately convincing - is involved. The play ultimately celebrates the hopes, dreams and tensions between and among many people.

The play is held at Sumter Little Theatre, 14 Mood Ave., Feb. 13-16 and 20-23; Sundays at 3 p.m. and all others at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students, seniors and military. To purchase tickets: Call (803) 775-2150, visit www.sumterlittletheatre.com or at the theater.