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BWW Preview: Courtroom Drama Starts up TBR's New Year

A touch of Hollywood magic comes to Baton Rouge next week as local actors step into roles made famous by some of Tinseltown's biggest names. Theatre Baton Rouge will bring a gripping courtroom drama to the stage with their production of A FEW GOOD MEN.

Written by Aaron Sorkin as a stage play in 1989, the story was adapted into a 1992 film starring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. The plot follows events that took place at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in July 1986 where a high-level conspiracy is uncovered. Sorkin's text explores the nature of military mentality, loyalty and the Marine code of honor.

"It's a show a lot of people are familiar with from the movie," said Director George Judy. "But with the play itself the storyline is very similar, but it's a different kind of experience. It's really sort of overtly theatrical and exciting, and a lot of different realities mixing in together."

The show stars a local cast of actors ranging from really experienced to just starting out as actors. Trey Tycer takes on the role of the inexperienced Navy lawyer Daniel Kaffee - a role made famous by Tom Cruise, with Bill Martin who takes on Jack Nicholson's role of Colonel Jessup. Jenny Ballard, the artistic director of TBR, will be making her first TBR stage appearance in the role of Jo. Ballard has been acting professionally since 2000, and received her MFA in Theater Performance from LSU where Judy served as the head of my program. While going from directing to a stage debut is a "down the rabbit hole" kind of experience for Ballard, she's having a splendid time.

"It's interesting wearing this as a fake hat since I haven't worn it here before," Ballard said. "I think I have developed such a director's brain over the past few years that it's hard for me not to be wanting to look at the picture at all times. That's why I'm grateful every day that George is there because he is an amazing director."

For Ballard, the motivation to audition for A FEW GOOD MEN boiled down to the work itself as she loves the play and Aaron Sorkin.

"When we started talking about doing this show, I was so familiar with the role of Jo, and Jo's a good character for me, and I started thinking of being part of the production as an actor," Ballard said. "I just decided that this seemed like a great opportunity for me to get involved in this side of things."

As the court case proceeds and the conspiracy arises, the tenacious Kaffee finds himself asking complex questions that demand answers, spiraling into high drama at its best, which expertly weaves wise-cracking humor and captivating suspense.

"I knew the script well, and knowing that the characters were so rich, I was very interested in doing it," Judy said. "I think it's very timely with some of the questions of violence and the structure of both military and civil life. I think at the heart of the play is this choice that we all face of how we reconcile our sense of duty in our lives with our sense of honor."

At the heart of the play is the idea of social justice and what is fair and just, full of compelling messages that are left up to the audience to interpret.

"I think that if the play's done right, then people are going to be left asking a lot of questions about who was right and who was wrong," Ballard said. "Specifically, this role spoke to me a lot because Jo is a woman in a man's world who's trying to put it forward at all times and trying to stay relevant when everyone around her is second-guessing everything she is doing every step of the way. I think that a lot of women are still in this situation where they are trying to prove themselves on a regular basis."

According to Judy, he will not be presenting the film version on stage, intending on making it a very different experience. While some elements will be the same, theatrical suggestion will be employed to create the story that will make it thrilling to be in the theater.

"I think people that know the movie will certainly appreciate the story and characters they're familiar with, but we believe we're going to create an experience that makes them hear and see the play in a fresh and different way," Judy said.

With iconic silver screen moments, such as Nicholson's delivery of "You can't handle the truth!" it may be daunting for actors to emulate the same work. However, the actors won't be forced to fit into the mold of their characters as they were presented on screen, but will still live up to expectations.

"There are moments in the play where the audience will say them right along with you," Judy said. "There's a sense of expectation that's created, but also a sense of possibility of how this particular production will make the story fresh again...I think people will be satisfied that we paid homage and paid respect to the intentions of the playwright and all the great actors."

A FEW GOOD MEN runs until February 5. To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact the box office at 225-924-6496 or visit theatrebr.org. The show is rated PG-13 for use of adult language.


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From This Author Tara Bennett