Review: A Soldier's Play, starring Blair Underwood and David Alan Grier
A Soldier's Play, the 1982 Pulitzer Prize winner has finally made its arrival to Broadway. Helmed by director Kenny Leon, this play about the effects of institutionalized racism packs an incredibly powerful punch.
Capt. Richard Davenport (Blair Underwood) has been assigned to investigate the murder of an NCO in charge of a company of black men on a segregated military base in Louisiana in 1944. Told largely through flashbacks, as Davenport tries to learn more about who Sergeant Waters (David Alan Grier) was and who might have killed him, it's a both a study on the effects of institutionalized racism and a clever and engaging spin on the classic murder mystery trope.
Rather than sticking to the words, Leon's direction has infused music into the play, from beginning to end. The audience is given a sense of who the soldiers in the company are and their relationships with one another through short interludes of song that allow them to express their characters in a way that varies vastly from the original text.
And the cast themselves are all in perfect form, with award worthy performances from both Underwood and Grier. From the first moments we see Waters, as he shouts about hatred in America just before he dies, to his stern and serious attitude whilst in charge of the boys in the barracks, the audience is kept on edge as suspects emerge for the murder. Underwood's performance is equally good, from the moment he steps onstage. He creates a version of Davenport that is fully in control of everything around him. It's a perfect performance that is almost thrilling to watch.
From beginning to end, it's clear that A Soldier's Play was long overdue for its Broadway bow. However, this production is nigh on perfect, bringing this military base and its mysteries to life with a stellar cast and production.