Fun fact: A Few Good Men was originally written as a play by Aaron Sorkin. That’s right. Not the Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson (and his ferocious proclamation that “you can’t handle the truth!”) film. Instead the flick was an adaption of the play, which debuted on Broadway in 1989 and ran for almost 500 performances. The story was inspired by Sorkin’s sister who was jetting to Guantanamo Bay to defend some Marines who were convicted of almost killing a fellow Marine in a hazing incident.
Now this challenging piece of theater is being presented by BayWay Arts Center in East Islip on selected days until February 12th and moving with its full cast to the extension of BroadHollow Theatre Company in Elmont, Long Island on selected days from February 18th through March 4th.
Tightly and skillfully directed by Marian Waller, A Few Good Men follows young (yet disillusioned) lawyer, Lt. j.g. Daniel Kaffee (Brian Gill), as he is assigned to defend two Marines who are convicted of murdering a fellow Marine. With the help of the fiery and spunky Lt. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway (Tara Palen) and a trustworthy and comedic sidekick, Lt. j.g. Sam Weinberg (Eric Clavell), Kaffee is forced to make some tough decisions as he begins to realize the true meaning of fighting for what you believe in. (Not to mention, Kaffee is dealing with the pressure of living up to a father who was a judicial superstar.)
Much happens in the span of this two-act, two-plus hour play but thanks to the charisma and intensity of its leading characters and the smart use of lighting to seamlessly shift from scene to scene, BayWay’s presention of A Few Good Men is better than any emotionally charged movie. It manages to be funny, hard-hitting, and relevant at the same time. Gill (with his John F. Kennedy Jr. good looks) impressively spends much of the running time on stage trading barbs with many of the other characters, and dealing with the challenges of commanding a courtroom for the first time, while Palen brings much personality to the stage with her facial expressions, on-par sarcasm, and ability to fully convey the passion she has for this particular case and justice, in general. Frank DiSpigno as the play’s villain, Lt. Col. Nathan Jessup, manages to capture the bi-polar nature of his character with gusto and pure hostility.
Despite the meaty script, this particular production is presented so effectively that it manages to feel fresh and absorbing throughout, almost as if the course of events were unfolding in real time in front of the audience. Most realistic was the growth of Kaffee’s character; the arc felt organic and real. The audience was able to fully invest in his actions from the very minute he was forced on his journey.
A Few Good Men is an exceptional example of the notable theatre happening week after week in Long Island. This Broadway-caliber production boasts a dedicated and superb cast, a moving and action-filled story, and perfection down to the smallest detail. It is practically your duty to experience it as soon as you can.
Photo Credit: BroadHollow Theatre Company