Theatre Mirror Reviews"A Few Good Men"

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entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"A Few Good Men"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Little Theatre of Fall River's spring show is the riveting drama "A Few Good Men". The 1992 movie version starred Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Keifer Sutherland and Kevin Bacon. Both play and movie version were written by Aaron Sorkin who won the Academy Award last year for the screenplay of "Social Network" and was nominated again this year for "Moneyball". He has also won numerous Emmy Awards for his writing on the TV series "West Wing''. The show is a military courtroom drama. The action of the show takes place in various locations in Washington, DC and at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in 1986. A hotshot Navy lawyer has been assigned to defend two Marines for complicity in the death of a fellow Marine. The lawyer is more interested in his softball games than in his case. He gets prodded by the female member of his defense team to buckle down to business, finally defending his clients, and putting the military mentality and the Marine code of honor on trial, too. Director Kathy Castro creates a marvelous atmosphere of a military base and the courtroom proceedings, directing her 20 member cast to achieve wonderful results in an electrifying production especially in the second act. Their hard work is rewarded with a phenomenal standing ovation at curtain call.

Kathy uses a two story set with a Guard Tower and fence against the back wall with numerous playing areas on the stage and with moveable set pieces to keep the action flowing in the exposition vignettes in Act 1. The main focus in Act Two is the trial and this is where the meat of the storyline is the strongest. Also worthy of praise are the authentic looking costumes by DC Theatricks. John Wright plays the brash young lawyer, Daniel Kaffe who slides his way through his trials because he resents his famous father who was an outstanding lawyer. John shows the transition from wise-cracking, Hawkeye Pierce from "Mash" to a serious, Perry Mason type lawyer by show's end. Although he handles the comic moments well, it is when he portrays this aggressive attorney, that he delivers the dramatic punch and bower to boost this production to its best moments. John does fabulous work in a very challenging role. He commands the stage with his acting prowess in this role.

His fellow defense lawyers do terrific work,too. Mark D. Viveiros as Sam Weinberg and Pamela Morgan as Jo Gallaway. He delivers a solid performance in this role, running interference for his friend and giving him a shoulder to lean on. Pamela shines as the only woman in the cast with her tough as nails character. She has many splendid one liners including the biting one to the obnoxious Colonel Jessup about "What am I supposed to do with the other 59 minutes?" after a disparaging sexual innuendo he makes. They both handle the comic and dramatic moments with ease. The opposing lawyer, Jack Ross is played by Raymond Almeida Jr. He is dynamic as he prosecutes the two Marines. Outstanding as the main defendant, Harold Dawson is Tyler Rowe. His voice resonates in its military bearing. Tyler frightens the audience by the intensity of the lack of emotions as well as in the emotional moments of the character. Harold's fellow defendant, Louden Downey is played by Charles Lafond. He handles this younger, naive Marine marvelously by showing the uncertainty and fear about what the future holds for him. I directed Charles as Don Baker in "Butterflies Are Free" back in 2005.

The villains of this piece are the commanding officer, Lt. Colonel Nathan Jessup and Lt. Jonathan Kendrick, one of the platoon leaders on the US base in Cuba. Chris Mac as Jessup gives a multifaceted performance as one of the meanest SOB's around. Jessup convinces people to bend the truth by his iron will. Anyone who defies him is trampled down in the process. Chris commands the stage during the whole show but his best scenes are with in the final confrontation with John. His redneck assistant, Kendrick, who always defends his actions by saying God wants it that way is played by Charles Chambrello. He makes this dumb man, a truly frightening person by his stupidity and blind loyalty to their motto, "Unit, Corps, God, Country". The code red, a secret command to punish a fellow Marine, is hushed up. However the audience learns what it truly means when it is divulged by the close of the show. Charles delivers the goods as this demented creature. The other platoon leader Captain Markinson is more heroic in his actions to help Kaffee solve his case. Jeff Belanger does a splendid job in this complex role, keeping you guessing to what his motives are really about. Kudos to the cast and crew for doing a superb job on this courtroom drama. Be sure to catch the electrifying "A Few Good Men" at Little Theatre of Fall River. It is one of the must see shows of the Spring season.

"A Few Good Men" (8 - 11 March)
Bristol Community College, FALL RIVER MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide