Tony-winning A Soldier’s Play commands the attention of late playwright Charles Fuller’s hometown audience

-Brenda Hillegas
photo by Joan Marcus

The thrilling 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning whodunit, A Soldier’s Play, is in Philadelphia for a very limited time. A 2020 revival at Roundabout Theatre Company unfortunately didn’t reopen after the Covid-19 Broadway shutdown, but the play is now getting a well deserved national tour so that everyone can see this story unfold on stage. From now through 1/29 at the Forrest Theatre, The Kimmel Cultural Campus presents the show in partnership with The Shubert Organization.

In the early 1940s on a Louisiana Army base, we hear two gunshots. A Black sergeant is murdered. The play is told mostly through a series of flashbacks as Captain Richard Davenport, a Black officer in the Army (rare in the segregated South) conducts a series of interrogations with the soldiers- all of whom are eagerly waiting to be sent to war and fight. As you piece together who may have done it, you’ll be thrown a curveball. This production will absolutely grab you from the opening scene and keep you guessing until the very end.

True theatre lovers will appreciate this show on so many levels. For those specifically in Philadelphia, A Solder’s Play was written by Charles Fuller, a local playwright who just passed away last fall. Yesterday, Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic High School officially renamed its Black Box Theatre in the Howard Center for the Performing Arts as the Fuller Theatre.

The national tour also features the iconic Broadway performer Norm Lewis as Captain Davenport. Lewis is Emmy, Grammy, Tony, and SAG Award nominated, became the first African American Phantom on Broadway in Phantom of the Opera, and has numerous other Broadway and theatre credits. TV and film star Eugene Lee (Sergeant Waters) also starred in the original 1981 off-Broadway production of A Soldier’s Play.

A Soldier’s Play also has received so many awards and nominations! The original 1981 Off-Broadway production won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, among multiple other awards. Nearly forty years later, the revival was nominated for seven Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards, winning Best Revival for both. Even the 1984 film adaptation, A Soldier’s Story, was nominated for multiple Academy Awards and starred Denzel Washington, David Alan Grier and Samuel L. Jackson. The 2020 Broadway revival also starred Grier (winning the Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actor).

The acting in A Soldier’s Play is intense and passionate too, with the entire ensemble cast really getting the message of the story projected into the audience. It’s also worth mentioning the authenticity of the stage presence, with a West Point graduate, Christopher Wolfe, on hand as the show’s military consultant and two cast members (Charles Everett and Al’Jaleel McGhee) with military backgrounds. You’ll leave thinking about how it covers the conversation of race, power, injustices and how, decades after the show was written, the content is still relevant today.

More tickets and info can be found here.

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