Sep. 26, 2012 - Issue #884: Strangelove
A Few Good Men
Directed by James MacDonald
Citadel Theatre, $35 – $73.50
'Don't anyone ever tell you we're not at war," goes a line in A Few Good Men, and it's as telling a sentence as any found here: if there's one central tension in Aaron Sorkin's script, it's in that grey space the military occupies when not actively at war, where an ability to maintain an unflinching resolve when the enemy happily takes pot shots as you try to eat breakfast does a number on a guy. It takes a special breed.
That certainly comes through loud and clear in this Citadel presentation of the story of Daniel Kaffee (Charlie Gallant), a young military lawyer happy to coast and adept at making plea bargains until he's handed a case involving two marines murdering one of their peers in a hazing gone wrong. In preparing to barter his case—he's sure he can reduce the sentence—he starts finding more unsettling questions than answers about how the military operates. Guantanamo Bay's known for different things today, but in A Few Good Men, it's a spartan territory staffed by a particularly zealous breed of marine, and who live by their own, skewed set of rules.
Director James MacDonald's take on the script zeroes in on that military discipline in its blindness, where a belief in serving a code higher than your own moral self turns to dogma and that dogma goes blind. The second half in particular, when we get to the courtroom drama, flies by at a clip, although Act 1's run of witty, bantery conversation feels a bit dated.
On a well-used rotating set—that even gives us some West Wing-style walking, talking sequences—the production's large cast is effective across the board. Gallant, as Kaffee is well-dialed into his professional slacker's arcing growth. As Joanne Galloway, Lora Brovold delivers plenty of the script's force and nuance. Doug Mertz's Captain Markinson carries a quiet, wounded gravity whenever he's on stage. It's a well-gathered ensemble, and everyone has their moments.
It's all good entertainment. But even in as snappy and polished of a production as this, the deeper questions of cracks in the military unit, of what really happens when a tightly trained unit sees a weak link, of how the miltary breaks men down to build them back up (and what happens when they can't), are things we're told more than we're shown. The script goes wider than it does deep. But this production does well to cover the cracks in the material they're presenting with a ten-hut! gusto. vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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