Community Players Finds A Few Good Men (and Women too)

Can you handle the truth?  To find out, come see Community Players’ production of Aaron Sorkin’s courtroom drama, A Few Good Men

This 1989 drama is set into motion by the death of a U.S. Marine private at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during a hazing incident gone wrong. Naval Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee is assigned to defend the two accused Marines at their court martial. He is inclined to settle for a plea deal, but when prodded by his assistant, Lieutenant Commander Jo Galloway, he begins to dig deeper and finds a trail of corruption that leads to a showdown with Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Jessup, the base commander.

A Few Good Men opened at Broadway’s Music Box Theater on November 2, 1989, where it ran for 497 performances.  It starred Tom Hulce (Academy Award nominee for his performance as Mozart in Amadeus) as Kaffee.  In 1992 director Rob Reiner turned the play into an Academy Award-nominated film, starring Tom Cruise as Kaffee, Demi Moore as Galloway, and Jack Nicholson as Jessup. Plans for a Broadway revival in 2011 and for an NBC live broadcast of the play never came to fruition. However, Community Players previously produced the show in 2002.

After the Broadway success of A Few Good Men, Sorkin was invited to write the screenplay for the film adaptation, which led to several years of his working in movies and television. Among his other screenplays are MaliceThe American President, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Social Network (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay), MoneyballSteve Jobs, and Molly’s Game, which he also directed.  He is probably more well known for the several television series he created, produced, and wrote, including Sports Night, The West Wing, and The Newsroom.  Collectively, they have earned him five Emmy Awards.  In 2007 he returned to the theater with The Farnsworth Invention, about the man who invented the television but was cheated out of the credit, which ran for 104 performances on Broadway. He has had more success with his current Broadway offering, a new dramatic version of To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch, which is likely to be running at the Shubert Theater for the foreseeable future. Not bad for a struggling actor who wrote A Few Good Men on cocktail napkins during quiet moments of his bartending gig.

Our current production boasts a talented cast.  Sage Brown is Lt. Junior Grade Daniel Kaffee, Joshua Ghantous is Lt. Junior Grade Sam Weinberg, and Jacqueline Schwarzentraub is Lt. Commander Joanne Galloway.  The three form the legal team that defends two Marines accused of the homicide of a fellow-Marine.  Brown brings a smart-alecky, path-of-least-resistance irreverence to his role which contrasts with the reasonable family man Weinberg, and the dutiful, justice-seeking Galloway, both played splendidly by Ghantous and Schwarzentraub. The three have a nice rapport and are fun to watch as these disparate characters develop into an effective team. 

The accused are played by Nick Seaman as Lieutenant Corporal Harold Dawson and Jacob Matchett as PFC Louden Downey. Seaman and Matchett give their characters a consistent, stunned response to their situation while maintaining their honor. Matthew Crawford portrays the victim, PFC William Santiago. 

Mark Moriarty is frighteningly intimidating in his performance as the brash commanding officer Lt. Col. Nathan Jessep. Bob Kinsella as Capt. Matthew Markinson, Sean Henderson as Lt. Jonathan Kendrick, and Brian Aitken as Cmdr. Walter Stone are excellent in their roles as Jessep’s cohorts who are caught in the middle of his machinations. Dakota McDaniels is smooth as prosecutor Lt. Jack Ross and Scott Meyers is firm and level-headed as presiding judge Capt. Julius Randolph.

Filling out the cast in fine fashion are Craig Fata as Capt. Isaac Whitaker, Matthew Bushue as Cpl. Jeffrey Howard, and Britni Williams as Cpl. Hammaker, with Patti Geske, Mario Silva, and Jason Cook playing multiple characters.

In his debut as director is Players stage veteran Jeff Ready. He is joined on his production team by co-producers Ashleigh Feger and Eli Mundy, assistant director Judy Stroh, Rich Plotkin as sound engineer, and Dan Virtue as lighting designer.  Jen Maloy is costumer with assistance from Darraugh GriffinCarol Plotkin is properties mistress, and Christina Dean is stage manager. Wendi Ayers is house manager, and Gary Ploense serves as the military advisor for the production. The set was designed and built by Bruce Parrish and Nick Kilgore.

A Few Good Men contains some intense scenes and coarse language, stereotypical of hardened Marines.  

The pay-what-you-can Preview performance is Thursday, May 2 with regular performances on just two weekends, May 3-5 and May 10-12.  As usual, evening performances begin at 7:30 with Sunday matinees at 2:30. 

by Bob McLaughlin and John Lieder