Charles (H.) Fuller (Jr.) 1939–
Black American playwright.
Fuller explores racism as it relates to a small group of people and to society at large. Honestly and intelligently created, his black and white characters are whole people, not stereotypes. The racial conflict in which they are involved is therefore deeply disturbing—one recognizes Fuller's characters as profoundly human and the racism they face as tragically true.
The Brownsville Raid, Fuller's first major success, is based on a true historical incident. In an almost documentary form and in a restrained style, Fuller artistically constructs the story of the dishonorable discharge of an entire black regiment from the U.S. Army. His portrayal of the black sergeant's subsequent crisis of faith is particularly moving.
In 1982, Fuller won the Pulitzer Prize in drama for A Soldier's Play, also a drama with a military setting. Though developed as a murder mystery, the real mystery studied is human behavior, in particular, black and white relations. As with The Brownsville Raid, critics of A Soldier's Play acclaim its authenticity and depth. Frank Rich describes the latter work as refracting "the effects of racism through people, without having us watch a fire-breathing white racist slap someone around."
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vol. 108 [brief entry].)
["The Village: A Party"] leaves you thinking. Mr. Fuller has written a not-too-fanciful fantasy about racial integration that somberly concludes that it will not at present solve anybody's racial problems.
A charismatic black man, married to a white girl, has founded a community for other racially mixed couples. Superficially, the community has been a success, both in terms of the personal happiness of its members and the edification of the world at large; but now its leader has found another woman, and she is black.
Fearing for the community's "image" if their leader is allowed to defect from his dream, the group strikes him down at a birthday party. His widow it is decided, must marry a black man. Utopia has become not just a ghetto but a cell-block.
Mr. Fuller's initial situation is so intellectually provocative that his resolution seems disappointingly melodramatic. Even in a symbolic context, it is as hard to believe that these suburban types would automatically devour their leader as it was to believe a similar situation in Edward Albee's "Everything in the Garden"; in such well-appointed living rooms, discussion always precedes—and generally replaces—action.
However, "The Village" has enough things right with it to make you want to watch Mr. Fuller. His dialogue can crackle—"I knew you before you were black, Nick," the leader's wife tells him bitterly—and he knows how to make a point without words, as when the partygoers are shocked to find themselves pairing off for cards according to race, blacks with blacks, whites with whites.
The argument of Mr. Fuller's play—that integration exacerbates rather than relieves racial tensions—is too important to be treated in the brief fashion allowed here. The play's originality and urgency are unquestionable and so is the talent of the playwright.
Dan Sullivan, "In Switch, Princeton Offers New Plays and Club Here an Old One," in The New York Times (© 1968 by The New York Times Company: reprinted by permission), November 13, 1968, p. 39.∗
Lawrence Van Gelder
[While] racial strife sunders the world outside, five husbands and wives who founded a village for integrated couples like themselves, meet for a birthday party.
With that as a beginning, "The Perfect Party" [or "The Village: A Party"] … proceeds to raise a number of questions and to answer some.
How are the marriages faring and why? Is the village a success? Is integration a realistic solution to the problems of blacks and whites in American society?…
As the couples—drinking, dancing, dining—circulate … Mr. Fuller examines them as individuals, as husbands and wives and as members of society….
As individuals, the 10 characters appear...
(The entire section is 3,870 words.)