“A Soldier’s Play” at Elmwood In Nyack Looks Back at Racial Discrimination in the United States Army

BY GEORGE J. DACRE

This play by Charles Fuller tells the story of a mythical military base inFort Neal, Louisiana. Black soldiers with a white commander become embroiled in a murder mystery in which their colored non-commissioned officer leader was shot and killed while he was in a drunken stupor.

Technical Sergeant Vernon C. Waters was tough on the men under him, getting into a fist fight with one, and sending another to an Army prison where he panicked and hung himself. “A Soldier’s Play” by Charles Fuller is dramatically presented opening with the shooting and killing of Sergeant Waters and the subsequent investigation of the death by a black Military Police captain who is a lawyer and runs immediately into the intolerance that existed in the U.S. Army.

The white commander of the black troops puts down Captain Richard Davenport, charging that even though he is an officer, no one would allow a black to conduct the probe. But Davenport is insistent and he conducts the investigation interrogating all the black soldiers and a pair of white officers who had a confrontation with Sergeant Waters.

The investigation brings out the dialogue that makes this production intense and reveals how the black soldiers resent the way they are treated and the longing they have to be shipped overseas and get into combat. George Robert as Captain Davenport, Mel Hancock as Sergeant Waters, Nick Pascarella the white commander, Steve Allen as Pfc. Melvin Petersen, who fought with Waters, Dante Orlando Brown as Pvt. C.J. Memphis who was accused of striking Waters during his investigation of another shooting in the baracks all play stellar roles in this gripping play.

Emotions run high and the acting is superb. How it all turns out is very interesting and I suggest you see “A Soldier’s Play” at Elmwood in Nyack. It runs weekends through March 31. I rate it Three Stars out of Four !!!

Interesting footnote: In Elmwoods lobby there is a display of memorabilia from the era in which a Colored NCO Club at Camp Shanks is shown (actual wartime photo). White troops in the famous embarkation point boarded ships at Piermont’s pier. Colored troops were bussed down river and ferried out to ships.

To purchase tickets go to http://www.elmwoodplayhouse.com/, call 845-353-1313 or visit the theatre box office. Box office hours: Tuesday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.; Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (closed Sunday and Monday). Tickets are $21.00. Discounts are available for students and seniors on Friday nights and Sunday matinees. Performances on Friday and Saturday are at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 p.m.