By: Sandi Durell
Currently at the Cherry Lane Theatre, “One Night,” presented by Rattlestick Playwrights & Cherry Lane, presents shocking insights into the horrors of war and couldn’t be more timely in its expose about rape of female soldiers.
Written by Charles Fuller, we are faced with many truths about our military – those who keep us safe return laden with emotional and physical disabilities and wind up falling through the cracks of a system that many times fails to take care of its own.
While on a tour of duty in Iraq, Alicia (Rutina Wesley) is raped by three soldiers and is met with a series of reasons why filing a report would be harmful to her and not accomplish very much, including a commanding officer who brushes it off as consensual sex. After all, what’s a woman doing serving with men in combat anyway? All this is revealed in flashbacks as we meet Alicia and her boyfriend Horace (Grantham Coleman), whom she met in The Sand Box in Iraq. They are in a dingy motel room where they are staying the night after losing their shelter in a fire with all their possessions.
Horace has been assisting and taking care of Alicia who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, as she relives her rape, unable to function since her husband blamed her for being raped and stole away their son to be raised elsewhere rather than allowing her to raise him.
Alicia is frightened and overwrought, shaking, hysterical with bursts of screaming and crying episodes, and constant flashbacks of the horrors of war, as Horace tries to soothe her. It is obvious from her gestures of not wanting to be touched, that they have not been intimate. Horace, too, suffers from his own demons.
The sleazy motel owner Meny (Cortez Nance Jr.) at first appears helpful but he is hiding his true role as a lustful pimp as we hear sounds from the next room of a prostitute while Meny eventually tries to persuade Horace to get Alicia to join in.
And so, 100 minutes (no intermission) go by as the horrors that prevail unfold as the two leads remain on stage most of the time, visited in flashback and real time by the various military and others – K.K. Moggie who portrays a medic, Lieutenant, Doctor, Interviewer and Matthew Montelongo as an Army Major, State Trooper, Fire Marshal.
There is much more to the story and the reason why Horace has taken on the role as Alicia’s savior.
The direction by Clinton Turner Davis is impeccable, forceful and very real as the characters pour out their emotional guts in a downtrodden, one room motel with twin beds and a bathroom (set design John McDermott).
The performances are riveting and the sadness of truth couldn’t be more succinct but in Alicia’s line: “Why am I a hero if I die and a nuisance if I live? “
“One Night” – Cherry Lane Theater, 38 Commerce Street, Greenwich Village 866-811-4111 www.cherrylanetheatre.org thru December 8th
*Photo: Sandra Coudert