A Soldier’s Play is such a brilliant work because it’s not so much an examination of race relations between Blacks and whites but between Blacks. It details their many perspectives and how their individual ideas of what a man should be can be so dramatically different from each other when they are basically in the same place—the army. It’s also a fascinating mystery.
It takes a strong, diverse cast to pull this off and I was so impressed by what I saw. Dominic Daniel is sturdy as the lead investigator Davenport, trying to piece the disparate clues of the murder of Sgt. Waters and Waters’ own life. A complex man, Waters’ life is presented as noble, hypocritical, brave and cowardly. The many views are relayed to us, Rashomon-style, via each of the enlisted men. Victor Isaac’s performance as Waters is very affecting, as he deftly masters each level of Waters’ life that is presented to us, piece by piece, with aplomb. The performers playing the enlisted men are right there with him, with their energetic, lived-in work. Rosney Mauger sets the tone early with his naturalistic performance, as his Pvt. Wilkie is the first to give his side of the story. Like Waters, Wilkie is seen differently by numerous characters, and Mauger is able to handle the variations with ease. The likability of Ryan Lacey (CJ Memphis) and Bryshan White (Pvt. Henson) is off the charts, and Jefferson Reid’s intense portrayal of Pfc. Peterson carries a lot of weight. And Mike Lanahan is also rock solid as an honorable Captain, trying to keep his unit together and seek justice. The direction was creative and all musical choices were great. And Ryan Lacey can really sing.
A classic play about race centered around a murder mystery is handled with deft and honor by a brilliant cast.