A murder mystery is taking center stage at the CIBC Theatre in a Broadway production originally based on a film from the ‘80s.
“A Soldier’s Story,” which depicts a Black soldier’s experience during WWII, hit the big screen in 1984. The story follows Capt. Richard Davenport, a Black officer sent to investigate the murder of the troop’s master sergeant. That story has since been adapted into a Broadway production titled, “A Soldier’s Play.” It stars Norm Lewis, who plays Capt. Davenport.
“My first understanding of ‘A Soldier’s Play’ was ‘A Soldier’s Story’ back in the mid-‘80s with Denzel Washington …” Lewis said. “I heard it got critical acclaim and finally made it to Broadway in 2020. But after all these years and even winning a Pulitzer Prize, it took that long for it to happen.”
“There’s a murder right at the beginning, and I’m there to investigate that,” Lewis said. “So it’s that element. But it’s also shrouded in racism. It’s also shrouded in self-hatred, brotherhood — elements of these men wanting to fight for their country, wanting to be respected once they come back because we think that that will help their cause, but we know that that’s not true.”
When asked how veterans who cannot relate to the experience of serving while Black would respond to the play, Lewis recalled his time working on a Spike Lee joint, “Da 5 Bloods,” and its depiction of serving in Vietnam while Black.
“Just come with an understanding that these things did happen,” Lewis said. “I got a chance to do ‘Da 5 Bloods’ with Spike Lee and an ensemble of actors. What I found out was that this was the first war where there wasn’t a separate army — not a Black army and a White army. It was all mixed together. Across the board, veterans need to be treated well, no matter what color, because we honor them for protecting and serving. But especially Black soldiers.”
“It’s art that really guides us and reaches to the heart and soul,” Lewis said. “If they can see something being depicted on that stage, and hopefully if we bring the real element and the authenticity of it, hopefully their hearts and minds will change or at least be inspired.”
“A Soldier’s Play” is at the CIBC Theatre through April 16.
Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3
Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.