OORAH and HOOYAH! Integrity and a code of honor is at the heart of the play A Few Good Men, showing now at The Little Theatre of Alexandria. Many Marines and a few Naval officers share the focus of this excellent production written by Aaron Sorkin, who went on to write the screenplay for the popular movie version. Sorkin is best known as the writer of The West Wing and The Social Network, and most recently has a hit on Broadway with his adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird.
There are military, political, and moral themes in the show and director Kathleen Barth admirably showcases them. Central to the story is a “Code Red,” an unlawful, but condoned hazing of a young Marine, whose unrecognized medical condition contributed to his death when members of his own unit attempt to “set him straight.” Ordered by superior officers and required in a blindly-followed “chain-of-command” mandate, his tragic death leads to a cover-up and the scapegoating of the two Marines ordered to carry out the Code Red.
Barth has gathered an excellent team to work with. A unit set designed by John Downing places an elevated judge’s bench upstage center and is flanked by a jail cell on either side. Other scenes shift locations quickly with desks and chairs moved downstage during transitions. Sound designer Krista White used recordings of Marine cadence counts to fill the transition time. I thought it was brilliant, though I wish recordings varied more. With the exception of one slow costume change, the transitions were very effective. Lighting design by Ari McSherry helped these tremendously by isolating areas to capture focus. A particularly impactful moment occurs during a brief monologue by Jeff Haslow playing Capt. Markinson, as a tight spotlight dims down on him until the end of his line. The other standout design element is costume, as designed by Farrell Hartigan. The military uniforms from 1986 seem entirely authentic to this non-expert. Fortunately, the director and designers had many members of the cast with military backgrounds, including military advisor Patrick Hogan, to help with authenticity.
Aware though I am of the title’s reference to the Marines’ slogan, there are more than a few men acting in this show, and they are more than merely good actors. Multiple standouts include the entire defense attorney team. Brendan Quinn is a standout as the lead defense attorney for the accused Marines. Quinn captures Lt. J.G. Daniel Kaffee’s glib tone and growth from flippant and shallow exterior to a lucid mind intent on justice. Jonathan Mulberg, as his friend and fellow JAG DA Sam Weinberg, first seems lazy, but is revealed as having a brilliant strategic legal mind. Lt. Commander Joanne Galloway is played by Emma Wesslund, whose rare presence in the 1986 male-dominated military courtroom is reflected in the production’s cast as the only female onstage with 17 men. Galloway is a voice of righteous indignation, who (as portrayed by Wesslund), sees her dogged meticulousness as a weakness. Yet, it is her determination and persistence despite gender prejudice that lead to examining the code of honor.
John Paul Odle as Lance Cpl. Dawson and Jared Diallo as Pfc. Downey are each strong as the accused Marines. Miguel Rosario, Jeff Haslow, and especially David Kimmelman are excellent in their parts reflecting the chain of command who scapegoat the accused.
The other cast members are uniformly strong and even, which is a testament to the director and her support team. A Few Good Men is relevant, well-written, and masterfully told. Get tickets soon, because this show will sell out!
Running Time: Two hours and 40 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.