A Few Good Men
2nd Story Theatre’s summer season is called to order at the Bristol Statehouse with an impressive production of Aaron Sorkin’s compelling courtroom drama, "A Few Good Men."
Oscar-winning screenwriter Sorkin’s play about a novice lawyer defending two United States Marines accused of murder first premiered on Broadway in 1989. The author also wrote the screenplay for the popular 1992 film directed by Rob Reiner, featuring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson.
The officers on trial, Lance Corporal Harold Dawson (Miles Boucher) and Private First Class Louden Downey (Jona Cedeno), are caught in a conspiracy after having been ordered to administer a hazing ritual, known in military speak as "code red," to fellow Guantanamo Bay officer, PFC William Santiago (Andrew Iacovelli), whose performance and behavior has been classified as subpar by his superior, Lt Jonathan James Kendrick (Kyle Blanchette).
The case is assigned to Lt Junior Grade Daniel Kaffee (Tim White), an inexperienced, disinterested attorney with a reputation for speedy settlements who has never stepped foot inside a courtroom.
Dawson and Downey’s dilemma catches the attention of Lt Comdr Joanne "Jo" Galloway (Christina Wolfskehl), an investigator from internal affairs. Convinced the accused are innocent, Jo tries to persuade a reluctant Kaffee to go to trial rather than settle out of court, much to the chagrin of Gitmo’s man-in-charge, Lt Col Nathan Jessep (Vince Petronio).
Despite having seen the film and my familiarity with the outcome, the material is still riveting and this production is especially entertaining. Bryna Wortman’s solid direction coupled with a multitude of stellar performances from the cast makes for a purposeful, pronounced stage experience, and the script is seemingly tailor-made for the venue.
White is terrific as the sarcastic, wet-behind-the-ears lawyer that knows he is in over his head and the actor convincingly and seamlessly bounces back and forth between ridicule and seriousness.
Wolfskehl’s performance is equally affecting as the honor-bound, iron-willed, lone female officer among this group dominated by men.
Petronio does a fine job as highly decorated albeit loose cannon Jessep and his understated delivery on the stand during cross examination ("You can’t handle the truth!") is potent.
Other notable performances include Alex Duckworth as LTJG Weinberg, providing much needed comic relief as Kaffee’s sidekick, Cedeno as the conflicted Downey, and Boucher, whose stolid portrayal of Dawson is near perfect.
"A Few Good Men" at 2nd Story Theatre is gripping, moving and above all, an invaluable reminder that every action has consequences.
"A Few Good Men" continues through June 24 at the Bristol Statehouse, 240 High Street, Bristol, RI. For more information, visit 2nd Story Theatre’s website.