BWW Review: SOLDIER'S FUGUE Marches into MAIN STREET THEATER
ELLIOT, A SOLDIER'S FUGUE is the first part of a trilogy of plays by Pulitzer Prize winning author Quiara Algeria Hudes. It is a discombobulated tone poem that connects three generations of soldiers and a woman who loves all of them. It is a meditation on what war means to family, and how it simultaneously divides and connects us. MAIN STREET THEATER offers up a well designed, exquisitely acted production to celebrate this lyrical piece and its Houston premiere.
Narratively ELLIOT, A SOLDIER'S FUGUE simply combines three soldiers in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq. They represent a grandfather, a father, and a son who all go through similar experiences in the wars of their respective eras. All of them are Puerto Rican and living in Philadelphia. Also represented is the wife of the father who is related to all three and a veteran herself of Vietnam. These four voices combine in letters, monologues, and interviews to show the audience the effect of the wars on their family and psyches. It's an elegant piece, but not one that moves anywhere surprising or novel. In the end we see what we knew all along, war is war no matter what time it is.
Gerardo Velasquez bravely heads up the cast as Elliot the youngest of the three enlisted men. He is a marine, and struts out onstage in the first moments in nothing save for a towel. His performance is brave throughout, allowing for bravado and vulnerability to mix beautifully. His father is played by Rhett Martinez who captures the spirit of Vietnam perfectly. He's a mix of wanting to do the right thing and simply wanting to be allowed to be himself. The grandfather is played by Luis Galindo who takes us back to Korea. He is somewhat stoic throughout, but gets the most expressive part in the play where he explains what a fugue is and why it ties in with the play. Ginny the daughter, wife, and mother is played by Pamela Garcia Langton. She knows how to handle the poetic material expertly, and she injects a much needed female perspective into the proceedings.
Dylan Marks creates an impressive in the round set for this work consisting of steel, electric wires, pages from books, and likelike flowers and plants. It is as much a character in the play as any of the four actors, and it is executed deftly. Yezminne Zepeda's sound design is the perfect accompaniment as well, and rounds out the piece nicely. Direction is solid from Rebecca Greene Udden who knows how to place and pace her actors.
ELLIOT, A SOLDIER'S FUGUE should resonate with veterans and those families who have been affected by war. It is reassuring and expresses the emotions of these two groups extremely well. I wish it had more of a narrative, but it is eighty minutes of poetic thoughts and musings without much in the way of plot or story threads. Quiara Alegria Hudes was trained first as a musician, and in this work that is quite evident. It relies on vocal rhythms and the actors ability to paint pictures with words. MAIN STREET THEATER's production offers the right cast for that, and marries them with an excellent production design.
ELLIOT, A SOLDIER'S FUGUE runs at MAIN STREET THEATER through March 1st. This play is part of a trilogy, and a concurrent production of the second part is at STAGES REPERTORY THEATRE. A final reading of the third chapter presented by MILDRED'S UMBRELLA will occur in March at MAIN STREET THEATER. Tickets can be purchased for this or all three productions as a package via phone at (713) 524-6706 or online at MainStreetTheater.com .
Photo by Bryan Kaplún