Part military murder mystery, part inquiry into the underside of race relations, Charles Fuller's 1982 Pulitzer Prize winning "A Soldier's Play," receives a gripping and ably acted production at Source Theater's Main Stage.
The play opens with a jolting image -- a drunken black soldier repeatedly shouts "They still hate you!" and is abruptly shot at close range by a shadowy assailant. The murdered soldier is Sergeant Waters, head of a black platoon in Fort Neal, La., and Captain Davenport, a black attorney, is called in to investigate.
Davenport is embattled on all sides. Openly hostile white Captain Taylor blocks him every step of the way -- it's 1943 and black officers are an unwelcome novelty -- and every one of the black soldiers in Waters' barracks has ample motivation for killing Waters, who was consumed by a misguided and antagonistic campaign to do away with what he saw as negative black stereotypes in his company.
The acting is generally good, particularly in the ensemble scenes. Clayton LeBouef is unflinchingly commanding as Davenport; Billy G. Williams is a strong and abrasive Waters, though his drunk scenes are overplayed.
Director Michael Johnson smoothly handles Fuller's flashbacks, and Jennifer Garrett's lighting aids the illusion. Joe Musumeci's eloquently spare set is dominated by a jagged black runway that cuts a chasm between the black soldiers' barracks and the white captain's office. -- Joe Brown.
A SOLDIER'S PLAY -- At Source Theater Main Stage through July 12.