By Omar Reyes / Staff Writer
Racial tensions, murder in a military base, impressive acting, and convincing set design. These are present in “A Soldier’s Play,” the first feature play to be shown in the LBCC auditorium this Fall by the Performing Arts Department and so far, the department is off to a great start.
Being a Pulitzer Prize winner, “A Soldier’s Play” centers on the murder of Sgt. Vernon C. Waters, played by Akil Bennet, in a military base during World War II, a time where racial segregation and racism were prevalent. Waters’ murder is initially perceived as a hate crime but Capt. Richard Davenport, played by Dennis Pearson, investigates further.
The storyline contains a historically accurate portrayal of how African-Americans were disrespected in the military during the 1940s. Prejudiced behavior portrayed in the play makes it an emotional one to watch and at the same time, an interesting one at that.
The fantastic work of the stage management gave the play life, thanks to Yvette Villasenor, the stage manager.
The stage is mostly constructed to be set in one of the military base’s dormitories, but with two large wall panels suspended from the ceiling and the military bunk-beds for the actors to speak their lines, it gives the audience a vicarious feeling of actually being there with the characters and being part of the play.
In addition to the set design, the costumes and uniforms the actors wear are equally, if even more, convincing than the set design.
Everything from the hats down to the shoes resemble actual military clothing that troops, sergeants and captains wore in that time.
Even the old-fashioned baseball uniforms fit the uniforms worn during the 1940s. The props in the play were great and resembled WWII era items.
The most impressive part of the play, however, has to go to the talented student actors. Not only was their acting top-notch, but their dedication and commitment to the play was evident.
During scenes where grand emotions were displayed, the actors really did look sad and hurt in an authentic and convincing way.
During times of heated tension and anger, the actors’ anger and rage are presented in a frightening, realistic way and that’s what made the play that much more enjoyable and real.
The audience can feel what the men are going through from their emotions and expressions.
The student actors, Jeffery Benion, Omm’R Jerald Wilson, Jeremiah White, Elijah Douglas, and Christopher Ramirez, who played the privates being questioned in the murder, did a fantastic job of giving each of their characters their own distinctive personalities and traits.
Akil Bennet was terrific in his role as part antagonistic and part supportive of Sgt. Waters. Pearson’s portrayal of Davenport was, by far, the sensational part of the play. Pearson’s ability to immerse into the role of an African-American military captain during racial segregation was superbly well done.
It is mind-blowing to believe that classmates and fellow students from LBCC brought the play together, with the help of director Anthony Carreiro.
The production feels like the grandiose play productions that the Terrace Theater of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center offer, for a much lower price.
The play was performed over two weekends, ending Sunday, Oct. 4. The Performance Arts Festival will be Saturday, Oct. 24, from 8 a.m to 1 p.m.