Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Few Good Men"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


Reviews of Current Productions


note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark


"A Few Good Men"


"A Few Good Men"

By Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Nancy Curran Willis

Set Designed by David Stern and Nancy Curran Willis
Lighting Designede by Marilyn P. Wales
Costumes Designed by Carole DiPerna

Sentry.......................................Iain Bason
Lance Cpl. Harold W. Dawson.............Mark A. Cafazzo
Pfc. Louden Downey.........................Bill McNally
Lt. jg Sam Weinberg.......................Art Hennessey
Lt. jg Daniel A. Kaffee....................Rick Gifford
Lt. Comdr. Joanne Galloway................Julie Jacques
Capt. Isaac Whitaker/Cpl Hammaker...Brian Wolfe-Leonard
Lt. Col. Matthew A. Markinson..............Mike Kiernan
Pfc. William T/ Santiago.....................Rob Hyland
Col. Nathan Roy Jessep...........Joseph Zamparelli, Jr.
Lt. Jonathan James Kendrick................Brad Pickett
Lt. Jack Ross................................Tom DeLuca
Cpl. Jeffrey Owen Howard.....................Stan Alger
Col. Julius Alexander Randolph...............Tony Oteri
Cmdr. Walter Stone, MD..............Douglas C. Desilets
Dave/Sgt. at Arms.......................Michael Roberts
M.P./Cpl. Raj...........................Sanjay Chaudhry
M.P./Cpl. Thomas........................J. P. Giuliotti
Navy Orderly.............................Sharon Elliott


Subject: A Few Good Men
Date: Sat, 28 Feb 1998 12:00:36 EST
From: MD4S MD4S@aol.com

Dear Mr. Stark,

I saw A Few Good Men Last night in the Friends of Arlington Theatre, and was completely amazed. The performance was excellent, and the person I was with enjoyed it more than she did an earlier prformance and the movie.

I did not see a performance before I saw the movie, but I feel that the on stage performance last night given by Lt. Caffey was superior to that of Tom Cruise. There was more emotion, and stronger feeling prortrayed by the actor last night.

Theater usually provides the audience with a more active role in deciphering the story line, and naturally leaves more to the imigination. For that reason, I felt that the parts of the story line that were added to the movie detracted from the strength of the story, and by not including them in the presentation last night, the director and all of the actors should be applauded.

What usually happens when a person has seen multiple performances of the same show, one tries to compare the actors/actresses. Jessup's actor had large shoes to fill, trying to superimpose his performance over that of JackNicholson from the movie, but I enjoyed the depth with which the actor managed the part, and by the end of his third scene, I was no longer drawing comparisons.

I strongly recommend that you (or someone from your organization) make the short trip north to see this performance. It is worth the trip, and you will remember how excellent these community theatres can be.

Sincerely,

Md4s@aol.com


Minority Report

by Larry Stark

About the performances, and the direction, I agree wholehearted. Though I never saw either a movie, teleplay, nor any previous production of "A Few Good Men" I was with you in the audience on Friday, 27 February, and your review fits what I always ask, about my reviews, of people who are with me: we both saw the same show.

However, it seemed to me that AAron Sorkin's script wanted to be a film from the moment it left his typewriter, since it gave anyone who had to make those lines mean something on a stage not a shred of help, continuity, nor characterization. They had to say lines as laconic as a telegram and imply long years of life-experience and subtext with nothing to work with. And so, since I didn't have Nicholson or Cruise to compare them to, I spent most of Friday night trying to figure out how Director Nancy Curran Willis and the ninteen men and two women under her command managed to make such a successful silk purse out of this wilfully uncooperative sow's ear.

Scene-shifts were a clue. Every career Marine in this cast (save principals) moved and re-arranged furniture, but every move they made, in scenes or between, was done with military precision of bearing and foot-work. That planted the suggestion of rigid, unquestioning, by-the-book drill. The perfect symbol of this was Iain Bason as a sentry, standing watchfully on-duty in an observation post, M-1 at port-arms, through the entire show. He had no lines; once, he brought the M-1 to present-arms and right- shouldered it; yet every moment he was on that stage he stood ramrod straight, impersonally doing what he knew his duty to be. Even the curtain-call was in rigorous marching-order, no smiles, ending in a whiplash-clean total-unison military salute, to-the-left face, and a smart march off-stage.

The Navy lawyers, on the other hand, were always informal, always indifferent, always focusing on pickup softball, their children, or abstractions of justice and human dignity. They were obviously, as the lines suggest, civilians slumming in uniform for three year shore-job enlistments practicing military law about the way they would practice corporate law the rest of their lives. Of course the 20-year Marines would despise these undisciplined interlopers who only knew about laws and nothing whatever about military life.

The final conflict is between the Base Commander who lives by an unwritten code, and a clever Navy lawyer suddenly a missionary for justice who clobbers him with the written one. When Joe Zamparelli Jr.'s slowly burning fuse finally exploded, he and Rick Gifford focussed the whole, long, slow accretion of tiny scenes and bits of information on their witness-stand confrontation. Each one finally revealed their real selves, and only one could walk away from that engagement victorious. Every bitten little fragment of quick dialog, every nugget of slowly accumulated information, every other actor no matter how quick-cut his scenes, added to that intense moment.

But I still think Sorkin's movie-script reads like a lot of out-takes from "The Caine Mutiny Court-Marshall", loads the dice, and makes the identical point: that absent a shooting war, military men are over-trained and self-obsessed martinets without much connection to real life. James Jones' "From Here to Eternity" said essentially the same thing, perhaps with slightly less salty language. But you wouldn't know how hard a job it was to bring that melodrama so compellingly to the stage from the Arlington Friends' production.

We saw the same show.

Love,
===Anon.

27 February - 8 March
"A Few Good Men"
ARLINGTON FRIENDS OF THE DRAMA
22 Academy Street, ARLINGTON
1(781)646-5922
Check their website.


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