Wrekless Watson (left) and Antonio TJ Johnson in "Father Comes Home from the Wars." Photo by Daren Scott
“Hero” is an intentionally conflicted name for the protagonist of Intrepid Theatre Company’s lyrical staging of Suzan-Lori Parks’ Father Comes Home from the Wars. The three-act, three-hour drama follows Hero (a very intense Wrekless Watson) over the course of two years during America’s Civil War -- from slave, to soldier indentured by his cruel owner (Tom Stephenson) to his returning home to West Texas. Through Hero, a complicated man who has both caused hurt and been hurt, the elusive dream of freedom aches to be made real.
While beautifully brought to life by a cast that also features Cortez L. Johnson, Antonio TJ Johnson and Leonard Patton, whose vocals accompanied by guitarist Jim Mooney enhance the sweeping production’s resonance, Father’s three acts are uneven. The first is the strongest, with all of Hero’s internal and external conflicts at the fore. The second act feels long, although it’s a tour de force for Stephenson. The third act, which includes everything from Hero’s talking dog to a near-killing, is tonally at odds with itself. Though Hero, too, is a man at odds with himself as he tries to embrace a new life. In the end, the horrors of war and slavery are rightfully indicted, and racism is shown for what it is: inhuman. (Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 10/4/17.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.