A Few Good Men Review – Justice and the Military Mind

Doug Harris and Leanne Antonio in A FEW GOOD MEN - Photo by Jason Niedle
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When asked where he got the idea for A FEW GOOD MEN, playwright Aaron Sorkin reported being inspired by his sister, a graduate of Boston University Law School, who was beginning a three-year stint with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Apparently, Sorkin’s imagination was fired up by one of her cases about a group of Marines who came close to killing a fellow Marine during a hazing ordered by a superior officer. After intensive back-and-forth negotiations between author Sorkin and producer David Brown, A FEW GOOD MEN was first produced on Broadway in 1989. Immediately thereafter, Sorkin adapted the stage play into a screenplay, resulting in a 1992 smash-hit film starring many of Hollywood’s elite in key roles. In 2022, La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts and McCoy Rigby Entertainment proudly present A FEW GOOD MEN, the second show of this season, directed by Casey Stangl.

Michael Ocampo, Brandon Engman, and Doug Harris – Photo by Jason Niedle

Lance Corporal Harold Dawson (Michael Ocampo) and Pfc. Louden Downey (Brandon Engman) are stationed in Guantanamo Bay Marine Base. They are on trial for murder in the death of Pfc. William Santiago, an unexceptional Marine who couldn’t seem to reach the goals set by his superiors and repeatedly begged for a transfer. Lt. Commander Joanne Galloway (Leanne Antonio) has strong feelings about the case and has even asked to be assigned as attorney for the two Marines – but she is passed over in favor of Lt. J.G. Daniel Kaffee (Doug Harris), who is instead assigned to handle the defense. Kaffee, who is grudgingly serving four years in the Navy after graduating from law school, has quickly become the king of plea bargains on the base. But the fierce Galloway will not let him settle into his customary indifference as the two snipe at each other over the next step in the defense strategy. Especially since subsequent questioning begins to suggest that something is very wrong with the entire affair – all the way from the base commander, Col. Nathan Jessep (Andy Umberger) to his top officers, Capt. Matthew A Markinson (Corey Jones) and Lt. Jonathan James Kendrick (Patrick Stafford) to the lower military echelons represented by the two defendants. Code Red quickly assumes considerably more gravity than simple alphabet soup or a bright color. A Navy battle is rapidly shaping up – and courtroom fireworks will surely follow.

Karole Foreman, Gabriel Bonilla, Andy Umberger, and Isaac J. Cruz – Photo by Jason Niedle

Director Casey Stangl does a clever job of never letting the audience forget that this is a military story on a Navy/Marine base in a potentially dangerous area – Cuba in 1986. The war is not only about words and legal phrases – but also could conceivably presage open military conflict. Marching music, cadence counts, and the rat-a-tat of drums punctuate the play’s critical events. The talented ensemble cast does an excellent job of slowly coming to grips with what the court-martial is really about, all the while struggling with ethical and moral issues that can’t be ignored. John Iacovelli’s scenic design keeps the military in mind at every turn. Karyn D. Lawrence’s light, Cricket S. Myers’ sound, and Shon LeBlanc’s costumes fit right into the military theme. And let’s not forget about fight choreographer Michael Polak’s contribution to the escalating tensions. A FEW GOOD MEN is a peek at the military mindset clashing with both civilian and legal views about life, responsibility, blame, and shame. Audiences will find themselves gripped by the absorbing and intricate interpersonal and organizational challenges. If you’ve been in the military, you might have some pretty strong opinions about the resolutions offered. But, regardless of your background, A FEW GOOD MEN is a highly entertaining and thought-provoking tale which may challenge some of your preconceptions and encourage post-show discussions.

Doug Harris and Sara King – Photo by Jason Niedle

A FEW GOOD MEN runs through November 20, 2022, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, at 8 p.m. on Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays (no performance on 10/30 at 6:30 p.m.). La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts is located at 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, CA. Tickets range from $19 to $85. For information and reservations, call 562-944-9801 or 714-994-6310 or go online.


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