Aaron Sorkin is interested in who’s in power and what he/she does with it. The creator of the TV series “The West Wing” and the screenwriter of the current film “Charlie Wilson’s War,” Sorkin came to fame with his play “A Few Good Men” and later adapted it for the hit Rob Reiner film.
‘A Few Good Men’
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 210 Old Loudon Rd., Latham
WHEN: through Feb. 9
HOW MUCH: $20
MORE INFO: 877-7529
If the script is boilerplate, it generally keeps our attention throughout, and Curtain Call’s cast nails enough crackling good exchanges to justify the enthusiasm of Saturday’s crowd.
In a series of short scenes, Sorkin tells the story of the death of a Marine at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, killed not by enemy fire, but rather by other men in his unit, whose leader is the all-powerful Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Jessep (John Phillip Cromie). Taking the fall for the death is Lance Corporal Harold Dawson (Jean-Remy Monnay), and, under the terms of Code Red, he’s not unwilling to do so.
Code Red: punishment by members of a company to help a fellow soldier get back on track after misbehaving. In this case, the dead soldier, Santiago, had violated the chain of command in reporting the misdeeds of another soldier.
Jessup’s men believe their loyalty is first to the unit, then the Corps, then God, and finally the country.
Enter three young Navy lawyers, defenders of the Constitution: Sam Weinberg (Joe Russo), Daniel Kaffee (Richard Mathiasen), and Jo Galloway (Casey Cieszynski). Galloway smells a rat in the official story of Santiago’s death and wants to probe Jessep’s actions, while Kaffee is content to defend Dawson by cutting a deal. Living in the shadow of his famous lawyer father, he’d rather never lose a case than go out on a limb for his client.
The trial, then, turns out to be a personal test for Kaffee as well as a legal proceeding.
A number of veteran actors at Curtain Call, many of whom have worked with resident director Steve Fletcher, help anchor the production. For example, Jack Fallon provides needed straight-ahead energy at the top of the show; Aaron Holbritter leavens the seriousness with a comic turn on the witness stand; and Theodore Zeltner scores as the prosecutor.
CCT newcomers Emmett Ferris and Michael Moffre and seasoned performers David Campbell and Tim Orcutt ably round out the cast.
Monnay is deeply moving as the stoic young soldier torn between truth and loyalty. Cieszynski’s line readings are solid, and with more time on stage, she’ll gain the physical ease that Russo, for example, exhibits. I like his work. Cromie is properly threatening from the start and comes unglued at just the right time.
Finally, Mathiasen delivers a nuanced performance: his Kaffee is bright, funny, insecure, and capable of growth. Terrific.
The military music covering the efficiently executed scene changes fits, and the American flag backdrop is apt, if a bit coarse. However, the backstage noise and visible clutter sometimes detracted from the onstage action on Saturday.
At one point or another I thought of Captain Queeg (Jessep’s gumballs indeed!), Alexander Haig, and the recently destroyed CIA interrogation tapes. You can understand why.