BONA FIDE ACTING FUELS DIDACTIC SCRIPT
At about the same time that the United States entered WWI, units of the 24th Infantry Regiment, one of the Army’s four black regiments, set up camp on the outer edge of Houston. The Regiment had already seen action in the Philippines and New Mexico (against Pancho Villa), so the men rightfully expected to join the conflict in France. In Celeste Bedford Walker’s 1991 compelling but didactic play Camp Logan, the black soldiers face a completely different battle – racism. Walker chronicles events leading to The Camp Logan Riot of 1917, a mutiny by 156 black soldiers that resulted in the deaths of four soldiers and sixteen civilians.
The Robey Theatre Company’s superbly-acted production highlights the two strengths in the script: extraordinary character development and a wonderful sense of place. Unfortunately, the play lacks tension. The immensely enjoyable first act is chockfull of convincing, absorbing tales and anecdotes about life for the men of the 24th, but the second act decelerates because the characters are nothing but secondary commentators on the outside world. Alex Morris’ terrific direction includes clever usage of multi-media images on Rodney Rincon’s authentic set of a primitive garrison, but more is needed to evoke the outside world. Vanessa Paul’s costumes and the magnificent portrayals on stage (most notably Dorian C. Baucum, Bill Lee Brown, Dwain A. Perry, Lee Stansberry and Sammie Wayne) offer a satisfying credibility to the proceedings, but they are at the mercy of a script which, although packed with terrific dialogue, needs to eschew descriptive storytelling and somehow take us into the action.
photos by Tim Alexander
Robey Theatre Company at the Los Angeles Theatre Center
scheduled to end on May 27, 2012
for tickets, visit http://thelatc.org/