A FEW GOOD MEN
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Director – Liz J. Millea
Stage Manager – Rachel Poole
Assistant State Manager – Alejo Ibarra Pallotti
Set Design – Liz J. Millea
Set Construction – Vince Connor and Greg Phillips
Costume Design – Liz J. Millea and Linda Fullhart
Light Design – Gary Hullett
Sound Design – Liz J. Millea and Rachel Poole
Props – Susan Spangler and Liz J. Millea
Lance Cpl. Harold W. Dawson: Ashton Lewis
PFC Louden Downey: Max Swenson
Lt. J.G. Sam Weinberg: Benjamin Keegan Arnold
Lt. J.G. Daniel A. Kaffee: Travis Ponikiewski
Lt. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway: Kristi Lee Smith
Capt. Isaac Whitaker: Vince Connor
Capt. Matthew A. Markinson: John Grissom
PFC William T. Santiago: Alejo Ibarra Pallotti
Lt. Col. Nathan Jessep: Greg Phillips
Lt. Jonathan James Kendrick: Tim Crabb
Lt. Jack Ross: Leroy Hood
Cpl. Jeffrey Owen Howard: Michael Michel
Capt. Julius Alexander Randolph: Patrick H. Douglass
Cmdr. Walter Stone: John Valow Lowe
Tom/Sergeant at Arms: David Hilario Jr.
Dunn/Orderly/Lawyer #1/MP: Rudy Lopez
Hammacker/MP/Lawyer #2: Kristi Mills
Reviewed Performance: 6/2/2019
Reviewed by Jeri Tellez, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
This play, which was later adapted for the big screen, centers around the court martial of two marines accused of murdering a fellow marine. As director Liz J. Millea noted, “At its heart, this show is about following orders…As Civilians, we are lucky enough to be able to make those choices ourselves…” One of the key points of the play is the dichotomy of following orders vs. following one’s conscious. Millea did an extraordinary job working with the various moving parts, military protocol and interpersonal interactions.
Lt. J.G. Daniel A. Kaffee, played marvelously by Travis Ponikiewski, is a young military lawyer with a reputation for taking the easy way out. Kaffee, assigned to represent the two young marines, is competitive, charming, roguish and attractive (and he knows it). His efforts in the courtroom were played perfectly.
Kristi Lee Smith portrayed Lt. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway, the feisty, detail oriented lawyer who provided the initial research to Kaffee. She was as resourceful and tough as nails most of the time, but did reveal a vulnerable side after a confrontation with Kaffee. Kudos to Smith for her ability to display a strong female character in a man’s world.
Greg Phillips, as Lt. Col. Nathan Jessep, was the perfect antagonist who thinks he is invincible. He manages to maintain tight control over his men and his surroundings, until he makes a crucial error that ends up being his downfall. Defiant to the end, Phillips does an outstanding job of maintaining an air of superiority even when his house of cards begins to fall.
Lt. J.G. Sam Weinberg, played by Benjamin Keegan Arnold, was a steady, unflappable sidekick to Kaffee. He knew his role and performed it well, without making Kaffee feel threatened or inferior. Arnold gave an entertaining performance. Ashton Lewis and Max Swenson (Lance Cpl. Harold W. Dawson and PFC Louden Downey, respectively) and were admirable in their roles as the accused marines. Dawson was stoic and polished, while Downey was a tentative private, just following orders and unsure of what to say when he was asked a direct question. Both men were perfect for their roles.
As Capt. Matthew A. Markinson, John Grissom displayed a variety of reactions to the people around him. He was assertive yet submissive with Jessup, cunning when he posed as a civilian, and resigned when he apologized to Private Santiago’s parents. Grissom gave a superb performance.
Lt. Jonathan James Kendrick, portrayed by Tim Crabb, was a character I loved to hate. He was self-righteous and intimidating, and knew exactly what Jessup wanted even though neither spoke it out loud. He played into Jessup’s hand perfectly, and helped to intimidate Markinson.
Although I did have some misgivings about the physical condition of active military personnel, the rest of the cast was well chosen. Each actor knew his lines and blocking, there were no conspicuous mistakes, and all of the characters were believable and relatable.
The set, while minimal, was well designed. The mobile furniture pieces served to define various settings, and the scene changes were smooth. The props were outstanding, appropriate to the setting but not overdone.
Liz J Millea and Rachel Poole’s sound design was minimal but effective. Scattered presidential speeches during scene changes helped set the mood. Although there was no fight choreography per se, it would have been nice to have some kind of sound to accompany the “gut punch”.
The light design by Gary Hullett gets “glowing” marks. All areas were well-lit, and the blacklight during scene changes made the “code words” pop out of the set.
Costumes by Liz J. Millea and Linda Fullhart were flawless as far as my untrained eye could tell. The sailors looked like sailors, and the marines looked like marines. Aside from one errant button, the costumes served their purpose without drawing attention to themselves.
This play was both touching and entertaining. I recommend making plans to see this time-tested drama.
A Few Good Men runs through June 16 at Runway Theatre in Grapevine.
For more information or to buy tickets go to www.runwaytheatre.com.