A Few Good Men another winner at Hillbarn

Cast of A Few Good Men @ Hillbarn Theatre

Cast of A Few Good Men @ Hillbarn Theatre

A Few Good Men: Drama by Aaron Sorkin. Directed by Josh Marx.  Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City, CA. 650.349.6411 ext. 2 or visiting www.hillbarntheatre.org.  October 13–23, 2016

A Few Good Men another winner at Hillbarn. Rating: ★★★★☆

For their second production of their 76th season the ambitious Hillbarn Theatre under the leadership of Executive Artistic Director Dan Demers elected to mount Aaron Sorkin’s drama A Few Good Men that opened on Broadway in 1989 and became an award nominated movie in 1992 starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore. In the lobby before the show began there was a fortuitous meeting with the father of director Josh Marx. He informed us that there are two versions of the script with the second one being selected to perform. That second version includes the lines, “I want the Truth!” with the response, “You can’t handle the truth. We live in a world with walls and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns and nothing’s gonna stand in your way of our doing it.” The play is a courtroom drama where not only the two young men are on trial but the Marine Corps itself where orders are to be followed and not questioned if lives are to be protected. 

In this hit play two Marines, Lance Corporal Dawson (top notch performance by Brad Satterwhite) and Pfc. Downey (Noah Boger) are on trial for murder in the death of Pfc. Santiago (Mohamed Ismail) due to a hazing called “Code Red.”  Aaron Sorkin got the idea for this play from his lawyer sister Deborah, who went to Cuba to defend some Marines at Guantanamo Bay accused of attempted murder.  In the play the lawyer T. Kaffee (a brilliant Thomas Gorrebeeck) assigned to defend the pair is a supercilious Ivy League graduate and the son of a famous lawyer. His approach is haphazard expecting the men to plea bargain.  The defense team ends up consisting of “a pushy broad Lt. Galloway (Erin Yvette), a smart Jew, Lt. Weinberg (Drew Reitz)” and Kaffee.

The accused Dawson and Downey insist they were following orders. The superior officers close ranks fabricating details undercutting the accused. The most vocal is Bible spouting Lt. Kendrick (powerful performance by John Girot), the most senior is Commanding officer Lt. Col. Jessup (Christopher C.Starling USMC, Retired), who is up for promotion and the reticent Capt. Markinson (beautifully underplayed by Gary M. Giurbino). The play ends with a final scene that had the audience cheering. All in all it is a play well worth seeing that has a basic flaw created by Erin Yvette’s lack of projection never quite defining her conflict with Jaffee or the court.

Director Marx’s tight direction is greatly aided by the creative team that put together a raised set on a wide open stage with three acting areas and an elevated cut-out center stage allowing the action to flow uninterrupted since the action of the play takes place in multiple offices in Washington, Guantanamo Bay, Navy barracks and other areas. This allows the scenes to move along with minimal distraction keeping the playing time under two hours. Accolades also go to sound designer Jon Hayward with the rat-a-tat cadence of marching drill interspersed with musical riffs and ambient sounds one would expect in a military compound.

Added to all of the above are the crisp blue, white and tan uniforms (costumes by Mae Heagerty-Matos) juxtaposed against the camouflage fatigues worn by the ensemble and even the major characters.

It is a very thoughtful play that is as timely today as when it was written making it a “should see” production.

CAST: Tom Gorrebeck as Lt. j.g. Daniel Kaffee; Colonel Christopher C. Starling, USMC (Ret.) as Lt. Col. Nathan Jessep.  Ensemble cast include Brad Satterwhite, Noah Boger, Erin Ashe, Gary Giurbino, Nicole Martin, John Girot, Zach Padlo, Gary Pugh Neuman, Drew Reitz, Lauren Hayes, Mohamed Ismail and Andy Rothschild.

CREATIVE TEAM: Set designer Carlos Aceves; Sound designer Jon Hayward; Stage manager Caylyn Skoog; Master builder Steve Nyberg; Lighting designer David Gotlieb; Costume designer Mae Matos; Properties designer Alexandra Nemchik; Hair designer Dee Morrisey.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com