Know Your Enemy

For the characters in Buffalo Soldier, friend and foe became hard to distinguish

Kewconda is the youngest of the soldiers and the most outwardly bitter toward the army. Spirited, fiery, and smart-mouthed, he is a loose cannon, ready to lash out at any moment. The private jumps around, drinks too much, and tries Williams' patience with his rebellious nature. Watkins' energetic performance sets up a contrast with the older, more serious Williams and Wymo.

The fundamental irony of the play comes from the question: Who is the real enemy? Early in the play, Captain Cooney takes solace in the fact that at least the cavalrymen know who their enemies are. He refers to the battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, where it was hard to tell the blue uniforms from the gray ones. But for the rest of the soldiers, the answer is not so easy. As Wymo admits, "I reckon I don't know who my enemy is." Kewconda plays devil's advocate, strutting around and pointing out that Williams is an Uncle Tom to the white man and his army. At one point he sets off Williams' temper by calling him "boy." Later, when the plot reaches its boiling point, Captain Cooney, afraid that Williams will usurp his power, also calls him "boy." This subtlety of language and superb characterization gives Buffalo Soldier depth and tension.

As the Comanche chief, DeLeo has the deliberate speech and even tone of someone under hypnosis. His eyes stare passively ahead toward a fixed point in the distance. DeLeo preserves the integrity and quiet strength of his character, but his portrayal lacks a certain degree of intensity. It is important to remember that Quanah was a renegade and one of the most feared Native Americans in history. He was the last chief of the Comanches and never lost a battle to the white man. Beneath the somber façade, a cauldron should be boiling. Quanah's conversations with Wymo, in which the chief is presumably speaking in his native tongue, would be an ideal opening for DeLeo to integrate a little more intensity into his character.

Not your usual tale of cowboys and Indians
Not your usual tale of cowboys and Indians

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Through January 28, 954-929-5400
Hollywood Boulevard Theatre, 1938 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

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At the end of the play, Wymo recalls the dream he shared at the beginning of the play. He tells of an Indian who is cutting pieces of flesh from Wymo's body, yet surprisingly the cavalryman doesn't feel any pain. "He throws the last piece of hide on the fire, and from the smoke a buffalo rises up and charges at me," Wymo reveals. "And just when he's about ready to run over me, he stops. We know each other." His memory, juxtaposed with the reality of his experience as a buffalo soldier, suddenly makes sense. It is this kind of well-earned closure that makes Buffalo Soldier well worth experiencing.

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