Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Photos by Stewart Goldstein J Samuel Davis is in monologue mode playing former Marine Robert Charles Wilson

‘Marine’ Studies War With High Marks

By Ma’at Atkins

“We were just two Negro kids born at the wrong time.”

This is the line of dialogue written by award-winning playwright Samm-Art Williams emoted by the free spirited Gwendolyn to her ex husband, Robert, in Act Two of the world premiere of the play, “The Montford Pointe Marine.” It also was spoken after Robert wondered why his dreams as an opera singer didn’t happen during the 50th Anniversary celebration of his enlisting in the Marines during WWII. Lastly, it also mirrors the realities of African Americans back when they were ‘colored” and the threaded sentiment of the play—dreams deferred from socio-economic racism.

Directed by Black Rep Producing Director and founder Ron Himes, “Montford”, which is staged at the Grandel Square Theatre in Grandel Square until June 26, comes across half Greek tragedy and, half historical documentary. The play tells the story about a stalwartly mobile black man, Robert, played superbly by Black Rep vet J Samuel Davis, who is set to celebrate his 50th anniversary enlisting in the Marines. The historic factor of the celebration is the executive order commanded from then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who desegregated the Marines for Blacks to be enlisted, the last armed services to do such, but have them trained on a separate non-white base (hence the name Montford Point based in North Carolina) to fight the front lines in the devils oven—Iwo Jima in Japan. The story begins as Davis’ character stands on a soapbox (literally) telling his tragic story to the audience who becomes his semi-psychiatrist throughout the play. It ends with his differed dream lifted –at least temporarily

Actor Whit Reicart, who plays three characters in the play, in a war heated racially challenging battle scene with Davis.

Through Davis’s monologues, the story is executed fluidly as it mixes flashbacks of vivid war and how he met Gwendolyn, played excellently by Black Rep vet and current artistic director Kennedy . “Montford” keeps your mind sharp as it changes from present past (1993) to the past of the play’s present (1940s through the 1960s) like a dropped bullet from Robert’s flamethrower gun that he treasures.

Montford’ also gives a provocative look of how the war not only affected men (yet alone black men) during the war but also the haunting memories of seeing the horrors of war close at hand (which Davis does perfectly). It also crushes the stereotype that love and sex stops after 40 years old. Case in point is when Davis and Kennedy’s character get freaky in Act Two reuniting after 20 years in a hilariously funny moment when they hump on top of each other on his couch and their son’s flabbergasted reaction from it. Although it is a bit shocking to see such carrying on, it is refreshing to see it just the same. Plus, It is an added bonus that Davis is able to showcase his great singing skills to his character who desired to be a professional opera singer after receiving his G.I. billed-degree in music education.

Linda Kenned plays the free-spirited Gwendolyn. Here she comforts Davis character in one of his flashback monologues telling the horrors of war.

And now to some of its drawbacks. There were some awkward moments with some of the monologues and how they were juxtaposed with the other characters. It is challenging enough using monologues and trying to suspend the disbelief factor while having them make sense on stage and “Montford” has its challenges. An example is when Robert is reunited with his ex wife yet he talks to her picture regarding his joy of her return to him as opposed to him expressing his happiness directly to her.

The former couple in the play's present day in 1993.

Another involves Robert’s son’s lament. The character, Junior, who is in his early 40s during the play’s present, regrets that he couldn’t fight his own war akin his father because the war during his era, the Vietnam War, ended before he could enlist. For a plot device, it makes sense to the relationship between father and son, but from the standpoint of his age, he could have enlisted or been drafted into the war (he would have been 18 in 1968 during the height of the war) . Also, if he was that serious in enlisting to be like his father, draft or no draft, his character would have enlisted.

Kennedy, Davis and Chauncy Thomas, who plays RC Junior--the adult son of the former couple.

Lastly, the main character Robert and his “Supermanesque” frame was a tad bit distracting to the character’s age. It has been noted that, many former Marines continued to keep in tip top shape when they retired from the services, but for the stage, Davis, who plays a man in his late 60s, and his slim, muscular build become more like a punchline to a joke that wasn’t told to the audience. So when the character gives occasional mentions of his regrets in his life yet alone finding his libido when Gwendolyn returns to visit, it come off more feeling like an afterthought that he is a senior citizen. The only real indication of his age is Davis’ fully gray hair and beard. A bulge in his belly or a limp in his walk could have given his character even “ more character .”

Nevertheless, who says that plays are perfect—and Williams’play is definitely far from that, but within its parts are some excellent performances that are worthy of Kevin Kline Award nominations for 2012 , and some wins (especially Davis’ performance) The play will make you feel as though you have experienced war trying to overcome all the battles that comes in life.

"The Montford Point Marine" by Samm-Art Williams

Directed by Ron Himes

Through June 26

The Black Rep

Grandel Theatre

3610 Grandel Square

For tickets:

The Black Rep Box Office



534-1111 or metrotix.com

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