February 28, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Theater Review: Mutiny at Port Chicago:

Editor-at-Large

 Paul Leaf’s Mutiny at Port Chicago, a world premiere play at the Ruskin Group Theatre, is a compelling story based on a little-known military disaster that took place in 1944 in San Francisco’s East Bay.  The drama is a haunting accounting of the events leading up to the explosion aboard a naval ship, killing 330 people, injuring 400, and destroying everything within a one-made radius.  

Based on Navy records said to be given to Leaf by the then Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Ron Dellums, Leaf, who also directed, constructed a powerful drama centering on the trial of 50 black sailors who had warned senior officers of the impending danger of overloading the ship with live ammunition.  These same men were assigned the duty of clean up which included trying to identify scattered body parts of their fallen comrades.  After discussions amongst themselves, the men agreed that another explosion was likely and refused to resume loading the munitions, resulting in being accused of mutiny. 

The lead character is Seaman Edward Little intensely played by J. Teddy Garces, an actor with a strong theatrical presence.  Little is the squad leader and serves as narrator throughout the play, giving a heart rending blow-by-blow description of what the men are going through emotionally, and the looming consequences.

Act I takes us through the events leading up to the deadly explosion and Act II is the trial which is presided over by Admiral Wright, (Carol Coughlan) a clearly racist officer who refers to the defense attorney Lt. Gerald Veltman, beautifully played by Maury Sterling, as “An uppity Jew lover.”  Veltman must try this case in a very prejudicial courtroom and we watch his struggle with attempts to get the truth heard.  The heartfelt, honest testimony given by Long John played by Eric Bivens-Bush, is one of the highlights of this Mickey Mouse trial.  In a private moment with his fellow seamen, Long John feels hopeless saying, “We’re just niggers on a plantation.”

The balance of the ensemble include Cris D’Annunzio as prosecutor Lt. Cdr. James Coakley, Paul Denk as Commander John Leslie, Josh Drennen as Lt. Fontana, and David Dunham as Lt. Dimatto, the white officers who ignore  pleas about the unsafe conditions.  Also in the cast are Durant Fowler and Pedro Coiscou giving creditable performances as Seamen Summerville and Sylvester, respectively.

The story, besides addressing the issue of racial discrimination, grapples with what constitutes mutiny versus refusal to do a specific job because of dangerous, unsafe conditions.  This was a historic trial with the outcome yet another blemish in American history.

The production was nicely supported by a creative set design by Christina Silvoso who maximized use of the space, and appropriate lighting by Rachel Fishman. 

 Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Road, Santa Monica, CA 90405, Fri. & Sat. 8:00 pm, Sun. 2:00 pm, Runs through August 15, Tickets:  $20, 310.397.3244 

Related Posts

Film Review: Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

July 19, 2023

July 19, 2023

FILM REVIEWMISSION IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONERated PG-13163 MinutesReleased July 11th The story in this “Mission: Impossible” chapter, “Dead...

Film Review: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

July 5, 2023

July 5, 2023

FILM REVIEWINDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINYRated PG-13154 MinutesReleased June 30th The director of Indiana Jones and the Dial...

Film Review: Past Lives

June 27, 2023

June 27, 2023

FILM REVIEWPAST LIVESRated PG-13105 MinutesLimited Releases June 2nd and June 9th, Full Release June 23rd The Korean concept of “In...

Film Review: Sanctuary

June 8, 2023

June 8, 2023

FILM REVIEWSANCTUARYRated R96 MinutesReleased May 19th In my humble estimation, this is one of the best movies of the year....

Film Review: The Little Mermaid

June 2, 2023

June 2, 2023

FILM REVIEWTHE LITTLE MERMAIDRated PG135 MinutesReleased May 26th With today’s technological developments, a live-action The Little Mermaid is not only...

A Riveting Revival of the Pulitzer Prize-Winning “A Soldier’s Play” Now Playing At The Ahmanson Theatre

May 31, 2023

May 31, 2023

On Stage With… Murder mysteries, whether cinematic or theatrical, are one of the most popular subjects. The list is quite...

Film Review: Chevalier

May 12, 2023

May 12, 2023

By Kathryn Boole  RATED PG-13107 MinutesReleased April 21, 2023 Chevalier is based on the true story of a historical figure...

Ballet at the Broad Stage Memorial Weekend – Meet the Talent!

May 10, 2023

May 10, 2023

Westside Ballet of Santa Monica returns to the Broad Stage with special guest artists kicking off Friday May 26th with...

Elizabeth McGovern Lights Up The Stage in “Ava – The Secret Conversations”

April 26, 2023

April 26, 2023

Play About Legendary Screen Star Runs Until May 14 At The Geffen Playhouse By Beverly Cohn Ava Gardner, born Ava...

Unconventional Art Festival “The Other Art Fair” Returns to Santa Monica This Weekend

March 31, 2023

March 31, 2023

140 independent artists, immersive installations, performances, DJs, and a fully stocked bar await visitors at Barker Hangar The Other Art...

Samohi Theatre’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” Takes the Stage in Santa Monica

March 1, 2023

March 1, 2023

Shows will take place at Barnum Hall on March 3 and 4 at 7 p.m. and March 5 at 3...

Film Review: “Marlow”

February 23, 2023

February 23, 2023

FILM REVIEW“MARLOWE”Rated R109 MinutesReleased February 15th “Marlowe” is a beautifully shot period piece that takes place in the late 1930’s....

Film Review: All Quite on the Western Front

February 22, 2023

February 22, 2023

I have never been a soldier at war, although I have close friends and relatives who have been. Universally they...

SMC Emeritus Concert Band to Hold Free Concert This Weekend at the Broad Stage

February 22, 2023

February 22, 2023

Concert February 26 will feature musical selections with an outdoor theme Santa Monica College’s Emeritus Concert Band, under the baton...