Review: ‘A Few Good Men’ gritty military drama that questions right and wrong
Take a well-scripted drama, add a skilled director with a distinct creative vision, and finish off the recipe with a talented ensemble cast, and you have the makings of a grand entertainment experience.
TownSquare Players’ production of A Few Good Men, now playing Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at the Woodstock Opera House through June 30, is just that: grand entertainment.
The play by Alan Sorkin premiered on Broadway in 1989 and was later adapted by Sorkin for the silver screen in 1992. It is a court-marital story focusing on the lawyers involved in the defense of two young Marines accused of murdering another soldier. Over the course of the story we are exposed to evidence of a high-level conspiracy and blatant obstruction of justice.
Trevor Wilson plays the principle character of lead defense attorney Lt. J.G. Daniel A. Kaffee. Wilson and John Barnett as opposing council Lt. Jack Ross are equally smug in their smarmy lawyer characterizations. While Wilson peppers his performance with an emphasis on sarcasm, Barnett seasons his character interpretation with twinkle-in-the-eye charm. Both are fine actors.
Joining Kaffee on the defense team are Lt. Commander Joanne Galloway and Lt. J.G. Sam Weinberg, played by fiery Tania Joy and subdued David Eitel. Joy and Eitel turn in two of the strongest performances in the gritty military courtroom drama. Joy is a lesson is by-the-books military precision and Eitel provides a character that choses his battles wisely.
Although his role is not as large as some, William Boggs turned in the most authentic and believable performance in the show as Colonel Julius Alexander Randolph – the judge overseeing the murder trial. A Vietnam-era Marine Corps veteran, Boggs also served as military advisor on the production and the details of his tutelage is evidenced by the crisp solutes and at-attention posture of all the performers in the cast.
The villain of the piece is Lt. Col. Nathan Jessep, the dark-hearted commanding officer who may or may not have given the order that led to the untimely death of one of his men, depending on who you believe. Exquisitely played by Jamie Ewing, Jessep believes himself to be above fault, consumed with the false notion that the ends will always justify the means and that anyone but himself can be sacrificed for the greater good of his twisted concept of patriotism.
When it comes to sheer intensity, Derek Hyrkas stands out as Lt. Jonathan James Kendrick – a young officer under Jessep, who shares the base commander’s approach to leadership, with the added element of over-the-top evangelical beliefs. Also of note is Matthew Stewart as the murder victim: Private First Class William T. Santiago. Stewart makes the most of his limited stage time, and conveys just as much with his changes in posture as his words.
Rounding out the cast are Anthony Walker, Nate Kirk, William Petersen, Chris Griffin, Jason Neal, Stephen Pickering, Greg Waldyn, Jim Pierce, Bridget Belcastro, Alex Fayer, Ana Hojjati, Aliena Rogers, Brendan Gaughan, and Chris Brouton. The hard work and dedication that the cast has poured into this production is clear.
Director Madeline Franklin has painted a detailed and thoroughly believable military drama, with equal emphasis on military and drama. The care with which the cast honors the legacy of the United States military they are charged with representing is inspiring. The dramatic moments that Franklin pulls out of her cast are equally impressive. Through creative staging, often there are multiple actions happening simultaneously on stage – but so finely balanced that they never steal focus from each other.
Set design by Erik Hervert is simple and barebones, yet is incredibly effective. Lighting design by Dan Frank is top notch – adding considerably to the storytelling and helping to evoke a well of emotions by the audience.
A Few Good Men is the final production for TownSquare Players, and completes a legacy of over 50 years of producing quality live theater in Woodstock. A Few Good Men is a fitting endnote for the company. TSP and sister company Woodstock Musical Theatre Company have made the decision to merge and proceed jointly as Theatre 121. We will look forward to what this new entertainment entity can bring to Woodstock, hopefully productions as good as A Few Good Men.
A Few Good Men plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays 2 PM through June 30 at the Woodstock Opera House (121 Van Buren Street, Woodstock). For tickets contact the box office at (815) 338-5300 or visit www.WoodstockOperaHouse.com.
Rikki Lee Travolta has headlined and directed theatrical productions around the country. He has written two novels and a memoir, all revolving around the entertainment world. He currently hosts a weekly musical theater radio program It’s Showtime with Rikki Lee on 101.5 FM. Rikki Lee also is the founder of It’s Showtime Theatre of Huntley and continues to serve on the Advisory Committee. For more information, visit www.RikkiLeeTravolta.com.