Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

Ward 57

Buddy Haardt and Brandon Morris
The Florida Stage continues its 21st season with the world premiere production of Ward 57 by Jessica Goldberg. Goldberg is a graduate of NYU's Dramatic Writing Program and The Julliard School. Her other works include Get What You Need, Sex Parasite, Good Thing, Refuge, The Hologram Theory and Stuck. Ward 57 was developed at The Colony in Missoula Montana before coming to South Florida for its premiere.

Ward 57 is the story of Hollywood screenwriter Wendy Hoffman interviewing American soldiers injured in the Iraq War for a movie. Drama unfolds as the personal secrets of some of these soldiers, and the possible political agendas of those on both sides of the controversy over the Iraq War, are revealed. In the words of one of the characters, Captain Gray Whitrock, "Freedom isn't free." So how do we honor the sacrifices made by soldiers asked to fight in an unpopular war? Playwright Jessica Goldberg states: "More than 3,960 American soldiers have died, many more are permanently injured. Until the war is over we must continue the dialogue. We must talk and listen to people who both agree and don't agree with us. We must have the 'great conversation.'"

In Ward 57 Goldberg delicately handles the Iraq War without any visible political agenda or social commentary of her own. Her writing feels genuine and clean, and without any hidden meaning or sentimentality. Her message is just that, whether or not we support this war, humanity requires us to respect the losses incurred by our soldiers fighting it for us, and to allow them to believe that their sacrifices have not been in vain.

Sid Solomon as the young, fast-talking Hollywood movie deal man bears just a trace of the savvy of a used car salesman. Though he nearly overdoes it, the stereotype is perfect for the role. The role of Lydia Whitrock is written a bit blandly, but Bonni Allen makes some quirky character choices that add to the role, which should be expanded. Buddy Haardt as the injured Private Anthony Small is compelling without being maudlin. His character asks us for our understanding rather than our sympathy. Brandon Morris as Captain Gray Whitrock is believable as a military man. He has the strength and bearing of a man intent on doing what he believes is the right thing out of his own sense of personal honor rather than societal expectation. Aditi Kapil is fresh and engaging as Wendy Hoffman; while Sid Solomon plays to the stereotype of his role, she avoids the stereotype of hers. She has a wonderful comfortability with Brandon Morris and smoothly transitions portions of scenes containing internal time/location changes. The cast and crew of this Florida Stage production make the play whiz by quickly, while still conveying the playwright's vision with the audience to the fullest.

Ward 57 will appear at Florida Stage through April 27, 2008. The theater is located in Plaza del Mar, at 262 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan. Florida Stage is a professional theater, with extensive programs for young artists, hiring Equity and non-Equity performers from across the United States. Florida Stage is a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the League of Resident Theatres, the Florida Professional Theatre Association, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, and the National New Play Network.

Performance days/times are normally Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 pm; and Sundays at 7:00 pm. Tickets and other information may be obtained by calling the box office at (561) 585-3433 or (800) 514-3833, or contacting them online at

Private Anthony Small: Buddy Haardt*
Captain Gray Whitrock: Brandon Morris *
Wendy Hoffman: Aditi Kapil*
Eric: Sid Solomon
Lydia Whitrock: Bonni Allen

Director: Michael Bigelow Dixon**
Scenic Design: Victor Becker+
Lighting Design: Jim Fulton
Sound Design: Matt Kelly
Costume Design: Marcia Dixcy Jory+
Production Stage Manager: Susan Clement Jones*

* Designates member of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

** Designates member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.

+Designates member of the United Scenic Artists.

Photo: Susan Lerner Photography

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere

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