Orange County Theatre Reviews

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Photo Courtesy : The Maverick Theatre

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

A Few Good Men is a film so famous it can be described as iconic.  An underdog team of lawyers go against the big boys in a stressful search for what is right, what is wrong, and what is ultimately the truth (insert famous quote here). But before it was a movie with A-list actors hamming it up to honey-baked levels, then-bartender Aaron Sorkin scribbled onto cocktail napkins what would become the play A Few Good Men.  It quickly made its way up through the theatre ranks to the Broadway stage, proving itself invaluable to all parties concerned.  The history of this play alone makes tackling the script an ambitious endeavor in and of itself.   In the case of the Maverick Theater, that ambition was rewarded with a well acted and well staged performance.

After a young marine is killed by two of his fellows on base, Naval Officer LT. JG. Daniel Kaffee is assigned to defend them in court.   Teaming up with LT. CMDR. Joanne Galloway and LT. J.G. Sam Weinberg, he labors to put together the best defense possible for the two men while muddling through his own views on morality.  In witnessing the logic behind every character’s actions (up to and including those of the fanatical LT. COL. Nathan Jessup), it is almost impossible to not find oneself reasoning through the plot points as well and wondering whether or not even the harshest character has a point.

These largely political questions the audience will likely be considering after the end of the show are the mark of a job well done.  In spite of the fame of the original Broadway play, in spite of the nearly historical relevancy of lines like “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”  Maverick’s production is strong enough and entertaining enough in it’s own right that the audience is able to focus on it…in direct opposition to obsessing over the actors in the film.   The acting is well done.  Special mention goes to Michael Keeney’s  spiteful visage as LT. Jonathan James Kendrick.  There was something about him that seemed unhinged.  His nonstop shouting coupled with his narrowed eyes had me fully convinced he is the sort of man who will do anything at all without a tremor.  Across the board the chemistry amongst the performers is good.  The only thing that I would perhaps change would be Galloway’s air of amusement.  At many points during the show she seemed as though her fellow actors were tickling her to death, and she was going to burst out laughing. As a woman working opposite men in such a gender-aware environment, it is possible that her smile might be an effort at sneering bravado against their cocky attitudes, but if that was the case, her mostly serious dialogue makes it a strange directing choice.

There were some technical difficulties at the beginning –strange lights flashing in background –but it was resolved before the 15 minute mark.  The set and staging is well done.  A long runway extended into the audience and allowed the actors to march up and down with gusto.  The only problem with this is that if you are sitting in the front row, you had better prepare yourself for a night of backwards head tilting.  On the plus side, the movements of the actors onstage appeared mostly natural.

There are two things in particular, while different from the movie, seem perfectly natural to the story.  These things are:

1) THE UNCOMFORTABLE SUBJECT OF RACE.  One that sticks out in particular is the fact that CAPT. Matthew A. Markinson is played by a white man in the movie, but played by black actor David Lewis in the Maverick production.  Does this matter?  It does actually.  Because Kendrick has issues respecting Markinson’s authority.  Now in both the film and the play there is a scene where Jessup is making some comment about another person causing trouble in Kendrick’s neighborhood because he wanted a black child to go to a segregated school in that area.   Because Markinson is white in the film, this conversation has absolutely no bearing on his relationship with Kendrick. In the play however, Jessup’s  smug glance and gesture in Markinson’s direction during this little speech hints at problems that can be stemmed in racism.   Different, subtle, yet perfectly in sync with the identity of all the men intwined in the scene–Jessup, Markinson, and Kendrick.

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Photo Courtesy : The Maverick Theatre

2) Special mention to Jack Riordan for making the role of CPL.  Jeffery Owen Howard his own.   His goofy grin and all around “dippy-ness” make what was formerly an utterly bland and forgettable character into a memorable and amusing person.

This is an excellent show –well worth the money and the time.   Go have some fun and see it!

   9/10

Jan 16- Feb 21 

http://www.mavericktheater.com/

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