Trauma’s aftermath is an awfully difficult thing to stage. It mostly happens in the sufferer’s head — making it hard to show an audience — and it’s chronic, making it slippery material for drama. Both problems plague Charles Fuller’s well-intentioned One Night …, now playing at the Cherry Lane in a co-production with Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, directed by Clinton Turner Davis.
Fuller tackles an urgently pressing subject: the unending anguish of war, and this country’s neglect of our veterans (a portion of proceeds benefit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America). We meet Horace (Grantham Coleman) and Alicia (Rutina Wesley) as they tumble into a filthy motel room following a fire in their homeless shelter. Both suffer violent flashbacks — battle scenes are projected on the motel room walls — and Alicia’s life is in ruins. In Iraq, three fellow soldiers raped her; afterward, she lost her marriage, her home, and her son. Now she struggles for survival, and to figure out what exactly happened to her that terrible night.
Fuller means well, but takes a heavy hand with the histrionics. The plot catalogues every calamity that can befall a person; the performers yell, cry, and quiver. As melodrama, it’s effective, but as a play calling attention to an important political problem, it would benefit from more reflection and less angst.