BEN BUTLER by Richard Strand, Falcon Theatre’s third theater-for-film project of its 2020-2021 season, is currently in production and will be available for streaming May 14 through 22.
What M*A*S*H was to the Korean War, Ben Butler is to the American Civil War. It’s a story that examines the horrors of war, and in this case, of slavery. But the play uses a strong dose of humor to portray the triumph of the human spirit from the cruelest and most dire of circumstances.
An escaped slave shows up and demands asylum at union-held Fort Monroe, Virginia in the early days of the war. Major General Ben Butler, who has been in the Union army for only a few weeks and has never held a rank lower than brigadier general, is faced with a moral dilemma: To follow the letter of the law, which would almost certainly end in the killing of the slave or to create a novel interpretation of the law that would save the slave’s life but that might end his barely-begun military career.
First-time Falcon director Piper Davis says that she was drawn to the play because of its approach to the story. “It certainly isn’t often you see a funny story about slavery,” Ms. Davis says. “But the humor of the play is found in its portrayal of resilience and hope.” Ms. Davis says that one of the challenges of the production is to make sure that the audience understands that, despite such heavy subject matter, it’s OK to laugh and enjoy the story.
The New York Times describes BEN BUTLER as “part comedy, part historical drama, and part biography, often all at once…just call it splendid.” The Times raves that the story’s dialogue is “by turns sarcastic, droll, and witty…clever without being glib, meaningful without being pretentious. It’s a funny and impressive mixture.”
The production’s cast features Michael Hall, Phineas Clark, Rico Reid, and Terry Gosdin.
Details for streaming the presentation will appear soon on Falcon’s website (www.falcontheater.net) and on Falcon’s Facebook and Instagram pages.