A Few Good Men
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by James MacDonald
Starring Lora Brovold, Charlie Gallant and Paul Essiembre
Saturday, Sept. 15 – Sunday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinées at 1:30 p.m.
Citadel Theatre (9828 101A Ave.)
Tickets ranging from $36.75 - $73.50 at the Citadel box office
With scandal, conspiracy and court cases quickly becoming staples of real-life drama, it’s no surprise that legal dramas like A Few Good Men make up a sizeable theatrical genre. After all, the courtroom floor is already a type of stage, and the audience falls easily into the role of the jury.
Written in 1989 by Aaron Sorkin, the man who would later bring us The West Wing and The Social Network, A Few Good Men is the story of a naval court-martial. Lance Corporal Harold W. Dawson (Jeff Strome) and Private Louden Downey (Cole Humeny) stand accused of the murder of one of their comrades, who died during a late night hazing at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Given the potential damage to the reputation of the powerful Colonel Nathan Jessup (Paul Essiembre), the Navy has no desire to probe deeply into the details of the case.
But crusading naval investigator Joanne Galloway (Lora Brovold) suspects that Jessup gave the orders for the hazing, leaving it up to young and cocky military lawyer Daniel Kaffee (Charlie Gallant), his long-suffering colleague Sam Weinberg (Kevin Corey) and Galloway herself to prevent the two men from serving as scapegoats to preserve Jessup’s position.
Heavy political and moral themes would easily weigh down the plot of A Few Good Men if not for a surprising amount of humour and a thoroughly developed cast of characters. Even if legal wrangling isn’t your thing, it’s hard to resist the schoolboy charm of Charlie Gallant as Daniel Kaffee as he progresses from a young idiot to a man of more substance. Lora Brovold as Joanne Galloway provides the perfect foil to Kaffee’s character: uptight where he’s casual, and tenacious where he’s willing to let things slide. Their disputes give the play much of its humour and energy, and the romantic “I hate you, I love you” subtext provides a nice break from the structured court proceedings.
Although the other characters see Galloway as shrill and interfering, thanks to Brovold’s sympathetic portrayal, the audience has the opportunity to see her determination more positively. As implied in the title, A Few Good Men is very much a male environment. There are, in fact, no other women in the play. Galloway is fighting an uphill battle through Sorkin’s pitch-perfect jocular male dialogue, brought to life by the cast in an atmosphere of old boys’ club camaraderie.
A contrasting though just as exclusionary view of masculinity is seen in the strict codes of the Guantanamo men. The defendants Dawson and Downey speak in military shouts for most of the play, and as they march rigidly, the spot-lighting creates shadows on their faces, erasing individual identity. The play’s beginning, end and transitions are marked by the actors singing hymns and military work songs to emphasize this austere life of honour and code. The tension between this strictness and the more lax attitude of the Washington military lawyers plays into the plot’s larger conflict between law, morality and military honour.
Despite the larger issues at work, the characters remain the focus in this production. Gallant, Brovold and Corey as Sam Weinberg are a believable team and worth cheering for. The best courtroom dramas can elevate the act of thinking to a kind of superpower, and watching the chemistry between these characters as they work out their arguments makes thinking aloud a form of exciting action in a rousing success of a play.
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