BWW Review: TexARTS Examines the Meaning of A FEW GOOD MEN in Lakeway, TX
Currently playing in Lakeway, Texas, Aaron Sorkin's original work A FEW GOOD MEN has been brought to life, as part of at TexARTS Academy's Professional Series. The average person recognizes this title based on its Oscar acclaim as a Best Picture nominee, and infamous line referencing ones inability to handle the truth. But in fact, A FEW GOOD MEN has a more subtle beginning based on a conversation Sorkin had with his sister regarding her time in Cuba, at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Premiering in 1989, and then adapted for screen a few years later, this play highlights an unlikely scenario between young men defending their honor and country while taking a hazing ritual too far. This courtroom drama introduces the audience to the military mindset, through chants and marches, and the responsibility involved with following orders without question. While investigating what seems like a 'cut and dry' case, a high level conspiracy is uncovered with regards to two young marines being charged with murder. As the story unravels, the audience can piece together the timeline and key facts the lawyers are desperately searching for within the case. TexARTs presents this play with high brow sophistication, without alienating members who have not served in the military but might have caught an episode of Law & Order.
Ball-buster Lt. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway (played by Renee Barnett), a self proclaimed 'excellent lawyer', shines a much needed spotlight on the young marines' questionable predicament and arrest. Assigned to the case is Lt. j.g. Daniel A. Kaffee (played by Nick Lawson), who is more concerned with winning his Washington DC based weekly soft ball game, than investigating anything too deeply. Commander Galloway eventually pushes and uncovers enough circumstantial evidence that LT. Kaffe's interest is piqued. Barnett and Lawson serve as an odd team, with Barnett continuously fighting her way into the room, while Lawson's quick one liners are funny and serve to lighten the mood to an otherwise very serious story. Their exchanges are pleasant and add elements of a coming of age story in this otherwise bleak investigative drama. Lawson's portrayal of Kaffee is endearing and very entertaining. His comfortable demeanor and funny quips kept the audiences' attention and added more meaning to his fantastic scene interrogating Lt. Col. Nathan Jessep (played by Jason Graf).
If a villain exists in this story, Jessep wins the cape. Lawson and Graf had real chemistry on stage, and their debates and verbal sparring were captivating throughout the climax of the show. Graf's performance of this high-powered American Colonel, was so deadly serious it was funny. His bubble gum obsession and sarcasm were highly entertaining and added to the manic justification of his actions. Lawson, Barnett, and Graf played their characters with ease when necessary and ferocity when duty called. However, the ferocity in the show was overplayed at times and the drawn out, quick-tempo rhetoric proved complicated for certain performers. Yelling with intention makes sense in a high-stakes drama like this, but certain moments were out of place and distracting to an extent.
Beyond the cast's adding meaning to Professional Series, the direction by Tyler King was strategically executed harkening to the premise of the show. The backdrop serves as a constant reminder of the high wall the military is guarding setting the scene where the terrible crime took place. Using a multi-level stage, offices, jails and courtrooms are created with simple invisible lines drawn by the actors' entrances and exits, in addition to some simple set changes. With so much action and quick changes, the execution was very impressive by the cast complimented by the coordination from King. The next element adding another well thought out character in this piece was the use of light and shadows designed by Stephen Pruitt. The plot line introduces the idea of secrecy and the thought of Guantanamo Bay is also very intimidating to most Americans. The lighting was meticulous for each scene, lending to not only scene changes but to inform the audience of a characters intention, mood, or unfortunate circumstances. The staging and design elements are brought to life within an intimate 100 seat theatre, making the audience feel like members of the jury.
A FEW GOOD MEN now playing at TexARTS Academy in Lakeway, is a show well worth the drive for Austinites. Although the subject matter isn't the lightest, the progression and performance of this piece showcases the talents of it's actors and creative team at TexARTS Academy.
TexARTS presents A Few Good Men
WRITTNE BY: Aaron Sorkin
DIRECTED BY: Tyler King
Show times at 7:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays, 2:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays
Kam & James Morris Theatre
2300 Lohmans Spur #160, Lakeway, TX 78734
Photos by Karla Ent Photography