Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
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 argumentwhat is the worth of a human beingcomes 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 Herohis mastercannot.
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