Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 and 3)
Round House Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of The City of Conversation, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Between Riverside and Crazy and The Glass Menagerie and her announcement of the 2015 Helen Hayes Awards Nominations


Michael Kevin Darnall, JaBen Early, and Tim Getman
Photo by Cheyenne Michaels
Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks' epic work Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 and 3), at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, fascinates on both the intellectual and emotional levels. With its rich language and ideas, it may be too much to grasp in a single viewing—and Parks has promised six more parts to the story.

The story, well staged by director Timothy Douglas and an accomplished cast of 10, follows the experiences of Hero (JaBen Early), a slave on a Texas plantation who accompanies his "boss-master" to the Civil War as a Confederate soldier in exchange for a promise of his freedom. Parks uses elements of Homer's "Odyssey" as Hero wrestles with whether to go to the war or remain behind with the other slaves, how to behave in the field, and what to do when the fighting ends.

The primary component of Tony Cisek's scenic design is a slanting wall that can resemble tall-growing plants or figures holding up a roof. So it is with the slaves in the first play, "A Measure of a Man," taking bets on whether or not Hero will serve their master in support of a cause that would keep them in bondage. Hero talks things out with the grave Oldest Old Man (Craig Wallace), his spiritual father; his wife Penny (Valeka J. Holt); and Homer (KenYatta Rogers), who tried to escape earlier and was severely punished.

The second play, "A Battle in the Wilderness," places Hero and his master, the Colonel (Tim Getman), in an isolated clearing after they have lost track of their company. The Colonel has captured Union soldier Smith (Michael Kevin Darnall), a white commander of an African-American company from Kansas, and restrains him in a portable cage made of tree branches. The philosophical argument—what is the worth of a human being—comes to the foreground as the Colonel questions if Smith had ever wanted to own a slave and Smith wonders why Hero doesn't run away.

Without giving too much away, Hero returns to the plantation in the third play, "The Union of My Confederate Parts," but with a different name and traveling companion: his faithful dog Odyssey (or "Odd-See," since his eyes face in different directions), played by Wallace as wildly enthusiastic and eager to tell the stories that Hero—his master—cannot.

While Early is the linchpin of the drama throughout its three-hour run time, other performers stand out: Wallace in his two vastly different portrayals, Getman, Darnall, and Holt as the stalwart woman forced to keep moving as her heart breaks.

Round House Theatre
Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 and 3)
January 27th - February 28th
By Suzan-Lori Parks
Part 1: A Measure of a Man
Chorus of Less Than Desirable Slaves:
Leader: Jefferson A. Russell
Second: Jon Hudson Odom
Third: Stori Ayers
Fourth: Ian Anthony Coleman
The Oldest Old Man: Craig Wallace
Hero: JaBen Early
Penny: Valeka J. Holt
Homer: KenYatta Rogers
Part 2: A Battle in the Wilderness
A Colonel, in the Rebel Army: Tim Getman
Smith, a captive Union soldier: Michael Kevin Darnall
Hero, the Colonel's slave: JaBen Early
Part 3: The Union of My Confederate Parts
Homer: KenYatta Rogers
Penny: Valeka J. Holt
Odyssey Dog: Craig Wallace
Ulysses: JaBen Early
The Runaway Slaves: Jefferson A. Russell, Jon Hudson Odom, Stori Ayers
Featuring Memphis Gold as The Musician
Directed by Timothy Douglas
4545 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-564-1100 or www.roundhousetheatre.org


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