“A Few Good Men – – A Breathtaking Show for Very Little Dough!
Lt. Danielle Kaffee (Marisa Kozart) faces down Lt. Col. Jessup!
Photo credit by: Erin Gould
Joel Roster is a very talented actor and director that I first met at the Town Hall Theatre in Lafayette when I reviewed Tom Stoppard’s play entitled Arcadia, probably between 2001& 2002. I have admired his work and followed his craftsmanship in theater for at least the past 16 years, and when I interviewed him on the 26th of April, he informed me that he was in the process of forming a new theater company that would be called the “Other, Other Theatre Company.” This past Sunday evening I had the exceedingly good fortune to review Roster’s first production at his new Walnut Creek Black Box theater venue, Aaron Sorkin’s “A Few Good Men”. Sorkin’s play was first produced on Broadway by David Brown in 1989. It tells of the engagement of military lawyers and a court-martial of two young Marines accused of killing a fellow Marine in a hazing incident at the Guantánamo Bay Naval base in Cuba. The play is based on a series of events that actually took place on the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in 1986. Sorkin’s sister Deborah, who had graduated from Boston University law school, was serving a three year tour of duty with the Naval Judge Advocate General’s Corps. In a telephone conversation with his sister, Sorkin learned that she was going to Guantánamo Bay naval base to defend a group of Marines who had come close to killing a fellow Marine in a hazing incident (referred to by the Corps as “Code Red”) that had been ordered by a superior officer. Sorkin gathered the information and wrote much of his story on cocktail napkins while he was bartending at the Palace theatre on Broadway (thanks to Google & Wikipedia).
As tough as they come – – Lt. Col. Nathan Jessup (Lamont Ridgell)
Photo Credit: Erin Gould
The play follows the story of the trial from the time the legal team is first formed. Naval investigator and lawyer Lieut. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway (Gretchen Lee Salter) suspects that Dawson (Ariel Sandino) and Downey (Jen McFarlane), the two Marines accused of murdering their fellow Marine, Private William T. Santiago (Chris Totah), were in fact instructed by their commanding officer to “EDUCATE” Santiago (via a “Code Red” hazing), who the officer considered to be guilty of “conduct unbecoming a US Marine”. Lieut. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway wants to properly defend the two marines whom she feels may be unjustly accused. But the case is given to a much less experienced attorney, Lieut. Danielle A. Kaffee (Marisa Cozart, known for her penchant in settling cases by way of plea bargains, apparently for what might be considered, military politics. The two attorneys, Kaffee and Galloway, cross swords immediately when it becomes apparent to Galloway that Kaffee doesn’t want to take the case to trial, primarily because she believes that it is an open and shut case in which the two Marines will be found guilty regardless of how hard she works to defend them. And she has little or no experience actually seeing a real trial from start to finish, a trial of this potential magnitude.
This is a very powerful and frightening story demonstrating how power in the hands of the wrong or misguided military officers is seldom countermanded and handled in a just and compassionate fashion. There are many very fine actors portraying the complicated characters and stories behind this potentially ill-fated miscarriage of justice. Lieut. Col. Nathan Jessup, the tough, uncompromising commanding officer who initially instructed that Santiago be straightened out is played superbly by Lamont Ridgell. The cast includes an emerging young actress, Jen McFarlane as Pfc. Louden Downey, Henry Perkins as Capt. Matthew Martinson, Melynda Kiring as Capt. Julia Randolph (the court-martial judge), Attorney Kaffee’s assistant, Lieutenant (LT) Sam Weinberg (Benjamin Rafael Garcia), LT. Jack Ross (Vincent Perry), LT. Jonathan James Kendrick (Terrance Smith), Corporal Jeffrey Owen Howard (James Rovere), and a multifaceted actress playing several roles (Amanda Leigh). As I stated earlier, each and every actor provided an excellent portrayal of their character, however three principal actors really stole the show, including Gretchen Lee Salter as Commander Galloway, Marisa Cozart as Attorney Lt. Danielle Kaffee and Lamont Ridgell as the narcissistic Lieut. Col. Nathan Jessup.
Director Joel Roster is fortunate to have formed an alliance with the Lorene Fender Ballet School in Walnut Creek who have provided him the use of their ballet school at 1357 N. Main St., in downtown Walnut Creek. Unique to this theater company’s basic growth plan, or mission, the Other, Other Theatre Company only plans to perform when other theater companies in the area are “Dark” or what you would probably call, not open for business, meaning they will only perform on Sunday and Monday evenings, at 7:30 PM. The theater company entrance is accessed from an alleyway at the back of the ballet school, roughly at 1534 Commercial Ln. in Walnut Creek, next door to the multi-storied parking garage directly across the street from Pete’s Coffee & Tea, which is located at 1343 Locust Street. Look for signage at the Ballet School on their North Main entrance that will direct you to the rear of the building to find the theater’s entrance, in the alley. It may sound difficult, but I had no problem finding it and the journey is worth it. Tickets are a very reasonable $20 each or $15 for veterans, seniors and students and are available at www.otherothertheatre.com or call (925) 878-8869. This is definitely an “R” rated play, so don’t bring the little ones. There is only one more Monday performance available for you to attend as the Sunday night’s seating is already sold out and the show closes on Monday, 10/29/18. This show is an absolute winner, directed in such a fashion as the patrons are in the middle of the action, with the fire and fury in and about you, everywhere!!! A Breathtaking Show – – for very little dough!