Set in a World War II mixed climate of unquestioned patriotism and inchoate individuality, The Caine Mutiny, a Pulitzer Prizewinning novel by Herman Wouk, examines the dynamics of relationship amongst a culturally diverse group of military men on a Navy minesweeper in the Pacific arena. Wouk’s own adaptation for the stage focuses on the court-martial of a character who, for the alleged reason of saving the ship from sinking in a typhoon, takes control from his commanding officer under Article 184 of Navy Regulations.
The play ensues like a trial, revealing the mutiny-provoking incidents to the audience as if they were the jurors just learning details of the case. As it proceeds and the psychological profile of the commanding officer is brought to light, the underscoring theme of class struggle emerges.
Such socially significant material is not new to the New Day Repertory Company, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting cultural enrichment, racial harmony and appreciation for the arts through theatre. In its long history, New Day has offered a deep well of classic drama by such notable playwrights as Ibsen, Shaw, Moliere, Beckett, O’Neil, Williams, Albee, Orwell and Shakespeare. Under the leadership of Dr. Rodney Douglas, the company is committed to making critically acclaimed works available to audiences throughout the region who might not otherwise be exposed to them. Founded primarily for the purpose of providing training for black actresses and actors, thus giving them opportunities to practice their craft beyond stereotypical limitations, New Day has in recent years made integrated casting its focal point.
“Culture and art transcend race and language,” says Douglas, a native of Grenada who was professionally trained in England at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Holder of three PhDs and professor of Drama and Literature at SUNY-New Paltz, Marist College and Dutchess Community College, Douglas might have been discouraged in his early years in New York when he was dismissed from casting calls because there were “no parts for Negroes.” The incident gave rise to the foundation of New Day.
It will come as no surprise to friends of the founder to learn that when he was hospitalized in December, diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism, he conducted pre-production meetings in his hospital room. Fortunately, his son Lynrod Douglas was able to come down from Toronto to step in and get The Caine Mutiny underway. He quips, “My father has a mission to provide theatre to the underserved population. I’m sure you’re aware of his commitment. He had play posters up in his hospital room and sold tickets to all the nurses.”
The esteemed cast includes director John LeFevre as Blakely, Doug Koop as Greenwald, Bud Riddell as Maryk, Brett Owen as Commander Queeg, Jerry Maple as Challee, Jack Weiner as Captain Southard, Tyler Barden as Lieutenant Keefer, Chauncey DeLeon Gilbert as Urban, Nick Kalogris as Lieutenant Keith, Marc Colvson as Dr. Lundeen, Ron Robbins as Dr. Bird, Louis Hooper as an orderly and stage manager Alexis Hooper as the court stenographer.
Four performances of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial will be held this weekend, February 24, 25 and 26 at 8 p.m. each evening, with a matinee at 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. General admission tickets are $20, students $16 and seniors $18, with a group rate of $15 for 12 or more. The Cunneen Hackett Arts Theater is located at 12 Vassar Street in Poughkeepsie. Call (845) 485-7399 for tickets and information.