Review: A SOLDIER'S PLAY at Free Reign Theatre

A Magnificent Military Dramatization

By: Sep. 07, 2023
Review: A SOLDIER'S PLAY at Free Reign Theatre
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This past week, I had the opportunity to see Free Reign Theatre's presentation of Charles Fuller’s A Soldier’s Play, at the Tom S. Getty Center, in Rock Hill, South Carolina.  This heart-wrenching dramatization was depicted at Fort Neal, Louisiana, a segregated “Negro” (as we were called during that era) Army base, during a time period (1944) when the racial disparity between Blacks and Whites were at a critical “low” and the presence of the Ku Klux Klan was at a disturbing “high”.  A murder of a "Negro" enlisted sergeant aroused speculation that either a Klansman or a disgruntled White soldier had committed the act.

As a self-proclaimed “wordsmith”, I am fascinated with words and the power of expression they possess.   Today, I searched for an adjective that would BRILLIANTLY describe Free Reign Theatre’s adaptation of A Soldier’s Play; however, none were suitable enough.  So, I made up my own combination of words for expressions, FANTABULOUS!  MARVELOUSNESS! AWESOMETASTIC!  In other words, “BEYOND OUTSTANDING”. 

Can I start with the director, Dr. Corlis Hayes, and her insightfulness and superb direction?  She brought out the soul of every character vividly and distinctly, which is why she has gained the respect of those in the theater community as the “best of the best”.  I love how she brings in the unseen and unexpected as she did this time with the inclusion of Big Mary (Shar Marlin). Though her presence was “short”, she left a lasting impression as only Shar can.  Shar doesn’t do anything “small”.  Her huge personality comes across in every character she portrays, and Big Mary is no different.

And to the magnificent actor that I believe has equal stage brilliance as my favor actor, Denzel Washington, Jonavan Adams, he didn’t disappoint.  He did an excellent depiction as Captain Richard Davenport. In every role I’ve seen him portray, Jonavan has captivated and embodied his character to the fullest. In this role, he was certainly an “officer and a gentleman”.  His range of emotion from a tough military soldier who proved that a "Negro" officer had equal ability and intelligence to “exist” in an environment where “his kind” was definitely not wanted…to a fellow “Negro” comrade who displayed his empathy for enlisted soldiers who were being manipulated and controlled, ironically by a higher-ranking sergeant who looked like them, Tech Sergeant Vernon C. Waters (Justin Peoples),  this role certainly was a testament to Jonavan's versatility.  His emotion (tears) brought a few audience members to tears (I heard the sniffles). 

I would also like to give kudos to Tim Huffman, who portrayed the role of Captain Charles Taylor.  He was so convincing and truly gave a visual representation of the racial conflict and bias that existed in the military during World War II. 

As a former military wife, I was very impressed with the precision of the military marching, cadence, and the other specific details such as the costumes (uniforms) and set details to include having the name of the soldiers on their footlockers. Kudos to the dramaturg and others who worked diligently to research and provide military/historical accuracy.

In summary, BIG KUDOS to everyone who had a hand in this production and thank you Free Reign Theatre Company for your presentation of such an excellent work. I enjoyed it as much as I did the movie adaptation “A Soldier’s Story”, starring heavy hitters Howard E. Rollings, Jr., Adolph Caesar, and of course my favorite actor, Denzel Washington

Review: A SOLDIER'S PLAY at Free Reign Theatre
Cast & Crew Of "A Soldier's Play"
Review: A SOLDIER'S PLAY at Free Reign Theatre
Selected Cast Members of "A Soldier's Play"
With Director Corlis Hayes
Photo Courtesy:  Andrew Roberts
Review: A SOLDIER'S PLAY at Free Reign Theatre
Cast Of "A Soldier's Play"  And Director, Corlis Hayes
Photo Courtesy:  Andrew Roberts
Review: A SOLDIER'S PLAY at Free Reign Theatre
Director, Corlis Hayes, And Shar Marlin (Big Mary)
Review: A SOLDIER'S PLAY at Free Reign Theatre
Tim Huffman (Captain Charles Taylor) And
Myself (Vickie L. Evans)


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