“One Night …” at the Cherry Lane Theatre (Closed December 15, 2013)

Written by Charles Fuller
Directed by Clinton Turner Davis
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

The utter moral ambiguity of war and its accoutrements is powerfully reflected in Charles Fuller’s spellbinding “One Night …” the co-production of Cherry Lane Theatre and Rattlestick Playeright’s Theatre currently running at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Although Mr. Fuller’s play provides no new information about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in returning war veterans – that is not the purpose of this important play – it does focus on important matters of motivation, including the need to confess and the desire to be forgiven.

Alicia G (Rutina Wesley) ends up living in her car behind her mother’s house after returning from serving in the military in Iraq. Alicia has not only been brutalized by the vivid and recurring memories of her time in Iraq; she continues to be brutalized by the equally vivid and recurring memory of the one night she was gang-raped by fellow servicemen. Alicia is surprised by a visit from Horace Lloyd (Grantham Coleman) the fellow serviceman who, after fourteen months, has managed to track her down, travel to her home, and offer to help her out of her homeless despair.

This odd liaison lands the pair in a shelter which mysteriously burns to the ground and relocates them in a nearby motel for one night. And it is in this motel, in the midst of PTSD flashbacks, that another mystery is solved; namely, who was responsible for the gang-rape of Alicia G. Not unlike a cat-and-mouse thriller, “One Night …” explores the motivations of Horace and Alicia as they delve deeper into the relationship that has tapped into their matrix of co-dependence and search for unconditional and non-judgmental love.

Grantham Coleman and Rutina Wesley use their formidable craft to skillfully and carefully peel away the fear-laden layers of their characters’ personalities. Watching these two young actors provides a window into the tortured lives of two veterans scarred not only by war but by their disparate backgrounds and baggage. Their characters are manipulative, frightened, combative, angry, and confused and Mr. Coleman and Ms. Wesley give performances that permit the audience to question everything they previously believed about war and peace.

Motel owner Meny (Cortez Nance, Jr.) is the “stateside” version of the battlefields abroad who fails to understand why Horace would object to pimping Alicia to his hourly-rate clients. Mr. Nance portrays Meny with all the character’s smarminess and depravity firmly in place. K. K. Moggie and Matthew Montelongo handily portray the characters that inhabit Alicia’s and Horace’s debilitating PTSD flashbacks and memories.

“One Night …” is a hauntingly powerful extended metaphor for all the atrocities of war and the effects those offenses have on returning serviceman and their families. It raises important questions – most with no specific answer – about what is delusional and what is real; who is crazy and who is not; racism; sexism; and the necessity of war. This is not an easy menu of queries to resolve; however, Mr. Fuller’s play, under Clinton Turner Davis’s resplendent and firm direction, does raise the significant questions about the human condition when it is forced to interface the inhumanity of war.