Steel River Playhouse in Pottstown opened its latest production, COURT-MARTIAL AT FORT DEVENS on February 6th. Based on a true story, it relates the events in the latter days of World War II, when women enlisted in the WAC (Women’s Army Corps) and were trained in various non-combat fields. Several black women enlisted at that time to be trained to be medical specialists, and were assigned to Fort Devens to receive their training. Their job duties and classifications were reassigned to orderlies (mopping floors, cleaning bed pans, etc.) when the commanding officer saw one of the black recruits putting a thermometer in a white man’s mouth. The women decide to go on “strike”, until ordered to return to their duties by a general…however, two of the women refuse, and are subsequently court-martialed. At the time this received little notice, except from the relatively-new NAACP, who assigned a lawyer to their case.
The historical impact of this story is very compelling, and was enhanced by some very fine performances. Winona Wyatt portrays Virginia Boyd, the reluctant “leader” of the strike with quiet dignity and poise, never losing her temper or acting out against her racist superior officer. Raven Daily (Johnnie Mae) allowed her character to show some of the fear the women must have been going through during this ordeal. Sharon Eyster (Victoria Lawson) shows compassion for the women in her charge, yet must follow orders. Tim Golden (Julian Rainey) shows his fiery side as the lawyer who knows he has a mountain to climb for his clients.
Director Polly R. Edelstein, in addition to selecting an excellent cast, has done a fine job with this production in the minimalist setting of the Newberry Loft at the theatre. The show flows seamlessly from scene to scene with no hesitation and no distractions for the audience. The pace is brisk, but not too fast so the audience can feel the intense emotions of the production.
The historical significance of the events surrounding this play make for a compelling story. The cast and crew do very fine work bringing the events to life. The script didn’t do the cast any favors, at times making the characters a bit 2-dimensional, and getting a bit preachy at the end. However, this was a fine night at the theatre.
COURT-MARTIAL AT FORT DEVENS
A Play by Jeffrey Sweet
Directed by Polly R. Edelstein
February 6 – 15, 2015
Steel River Playhouse
245 E. High Street, Pottstown, PA 19464