Fresh off their DCMTA “Best of Capital Fringe 2016” production Timon 2016, Off the Quill (OTQ) brings a faithful adaptation of Aaron Sorkin’s 1992 film to the Greenbelt Arts Center that stands on its own as a gripping comedic drama thanks to an all-star cast lead by Andy De.
If you’ve never seen the movie (don’t roll your eyes, I did meet someone at the play who hasn’t) A Few Good Men (AFG) tells the story of two soldiers accused of murdering another in a hazing incident gone wrong. It’s then up to their team of lawyers to argue whether a soldier or officer’s duty to their commander outweighs their own personal sense of morality.
It’s easy to walk into AFG with the film on your mind, it’s also easy to forget it just a few moments into the play. This is in large part due to the skilled direction of Patrick Mullen ( who also is credited with the set and lighting design) and stage management by Angela Beth Greenberg. The set is minimal and works well given the space and size of the cast. The military attire was provided by Trevor Jones.
Mullen’s well-timed lighting and blocking to delineate scene changes are easy to follow and each of the actor’s uses the space to their best advantage. They’ve really created a show that’s compelling to watch (and hear – thank you!) from any seat in the house.
Technicalities aside, this story rests on the shoulders of its cast and collectively they’re fantastic. Every actor (from the leads to the skilled young men that make up the accused and the ensemble) takes difficult (and for some, now-iconic) roles and makes them their own.
Each one handles the challenging hurdles of legal and military jargon without missing a beat, but on a few occasions they jump the gun and talk over one another. This might be a conscious decision to keep the suspense rolling or just a matter of their energy getting ahead of the action but it can allow some important moments to get lost.
And you’ll be hanging on every word because you’ll be mesmerized by this fast-paced drama and captivated by this cast. The decision to use the audience as the unseen jury was a great touch that James Heyworth utilizes to the greatest success as Lt. Jack Ross. He makes the most of his courtroom scenes and frequently connects with his viewers. He’s a prosecutor that understands the most important thing is getting to the truth of that fateful night, even if that means he risks losing this particular case…
Another supporting role that makes a strong impact is Donald R. Cook as Capt. Matthew Markinson. He’s especially heartbreaking as someone who’s supposed to be guiding these young men and now struggles with his failure of duty. Where Markinson is racked with guilt, Roderick Bradford plays Lt. Jonathan Kendrick with spitfire determination and righteousness, making Kendrick so terrifying he’s almost fun to watch.
Leanne Dinverno’s interpretation of Lt. Commander Joanne Galloway is also well-done. She plays a great straight-woman living in a man’s world, and her asides are some of the spots that most connect with the audience. Adrian Vigil as Lt. J.G. Sam Weinberg also shines as a supporting actor. His scenes opposite Andy De’s Lt. J.G. Daniel Kaffee are some of the finest in the show, allowing both men to resonate with the audience in the play’s more exceptional, quieter moments.
Throughout the performance De carries this play in the best way possible. On his own he’s outstanding and as a lead he’s supportive, allowing his costars to make the most out of their scenes together. He shines in a way that feels authentic, deftly showing a wave of emotions as his character struggles with his own personal feelings about this divisive case.
Michael J. Dombroski, as Lt. Col. Nathan Jessup, also delivers a masterful performance that needs to be seen. He chews up every scene he’s in and I really wish he’d been given more time during a powerful final scene for his words to deliver their biggest impact. Both he and De are remarkable, and when these two actors face off in the courtroom – its exhilarating to watch.
A Few Good Men features an outstanding cast and several powerful performances that propel this fast-paced political drama towards a riveting courtroom showdown. Off the Quill’s stellar cast will keep you on the edge of your seat!
Running Time: Two hours, plus a 15-minute intermission.