BWW Review: Bailey Directs Well-Paced A FEW GOOD MEN at CFTA
If the production of Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men - closing tonight after a much too brief two-weekend run at Murfreesboro's Center for the Arts - proves anything it's just how current and relevant the play remains, almost 30 years after its Broadway premiere. First produced there in 1989, followed up by the wildly successful film version three years later, it's long been a favorite of theater- and film-goers alike, giving them a bird's eye view of the machinations and intrigue that propels the plot of the courtroom drama forward.
It was clear during the performance reviewed at CFTA that many of those in the audience are indeed fans of the tautly written and briskly paced stage play, indicating it was a good choice for the theater's 2017 season. Directed by Vickie Bailey, who staged an earlier rendition of Sorkin's script for Lakewood Theatre in Old Hickory in 2009, the 2017 iteration may be even more relevant thanks to news stories of the past several years that have exposed more about the inner workings of the U.S. military, heightening both awareness and interest.
As with any community theater production, the CFTA production features a capable cast of performers of varying skill levels, but Bailey has smartly cast her strongest actors in the play's leading roles. She blocks her scenes with the practiced eye of a veteran director, ensuring that each and every audience member can see the action unfold and her pacing ensures that the play's two-and-a-half-hour running time seems far shorter.
Interestingly, even if you've seen the play numerous times or perhaps have watched the film on an endless loop during your downtime, the suspense created by the courtroom drama - which is really no different than any other show of its ilk, apart from its military court martial setting - remains potent and effective. Credit that to Bailey's experience and her cast's commitment and focus, which is commendable.
Roger Csaki, as Lt. Col. Nathan Jessep, the role made famous by Jack Nicholson ("You can't handle the truth!"), gives the most fully realized performance, nimbly skirting stereotype to present a performance that is somehow new and refreshing. Make no mistake about, he still captures the colonel's blunderbuss persona, yet he manages to play him without any hint of simply copying that notable film performance.
Mathew Knight, as the wisecracking third chair attorney in the courtroom scenes, delivers his lines with finesse, garnering much attention (and plenty of laughs, thanks to the acerbic wit supplied by the playwright) in the process. Chaney Mosley, as lead litigator Daniel A. Kaffee, fares somewhat less successfully due to his sometime wooden portrayal of the diffident Navy officer, and KT Turner plays Lt. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway somewhat trepidatiously in the play's early going, gradually gaining her footing as the action progresses. Mosley and Turner have a tendency to grow on you as the various layers of their characters, as they are written, slowly reveal themselves.
Among the supporting ensemble, there are several noteworthy performances, chiefly among them Dylan Bice (as prosecutor Lt. Jack Ross), Thomas Tapley and Ty Walker (as the accused Lance Cpl. Dawson and Pfc. Louden Downey) and Will Waters (as Capt. Isaac Whitaker). Tony Laughlin, in a couple of small roles, scores significantly as the corporal who testifies during the trial - his performance seems very natural and unfettered.
Finally, Luke Walsh, as the misfit Pfc. William Santiago at the center of the story, makes the most of his brief time onstage to give a gritty, believable performance.
Corrine Fann's lighting design, perhaps thought to be atmospheric and evocative, often leaves actors in the dark but doesn't seem intentionally egregious, and Landria Burkley's sound design, which features a score of tunes both patriotic and jingoistic provides an appropriate scoring to scene changes and transitions.
Clad in costumes appropriate to their military rank and the timeless setting of the play itself, the actors are given able support by costumer Lori Hoyt, whose own military background obviously adds to the sense of authenticity that permeates the production throughout.
A Few Good Men. By Aaron Sorkin. Directed by Vickie Bailey. Presented by the Center for the Arts, Murfreesboro. Through September 16. For details, go to www.boroarts.org or call (615) 904-2787 for tickets. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (with one 15-minute intermission).