A FEW GOOD MEN
by Aaron Sorkin
Garland Civic Theatre
Director: Aaron C Butler
Stage Manager: Dave Lehman
Set Designer: Mike Straub
Sound Designer: Jennifer Patton
Lighting Designer: Jennifer Patton
Costume Designer: Hope Cox
Prop Designers: Lynn Malden & Revekka Koepke
Producer: Kerra Sims
Lance Cpl. Harold Dawson: Joe Knighten
PFC. Louden Downey: Zeke Fayble
L.T. J.G. Sam Weinberg: Brennan Jones
L.T. J.G. Russell Sims
Lt. Com. Joanne Galloway: Tekia Gee
Capt. Isaac Whitaker: Allison Larrea
Capt. Matthew Markinson: Jay Peoples
PFC. William Santiago: Luke Georgecink
Col. Nathan Jessep: Scott Straus
Lt. Jonathan Kendrick: Josh Hepola
Lt. Jackie Ross: Janae Hatchett
Cpl. Jeffrey Howard: Tom McKee
Judge Julius Randolph: Robert Honigsfeld
Dr. Walter Stone: Allison Larrea
Sergeant at Arms: Jorge Lara
Reviewed Performance: 1/28/2023
Reviewed by Scott Lee Clayton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
When we are brought into Aaron’s Sorkin world as Garland Civic Theatre creates very vividly with Jennifer Patton’s set and lighting design, Aaron C. Butler does a very good job with inviting us into a time cycle of events leading us to the trial of the murder of PFC William Santi-ago. The one thing that I appreciated about this work is that while the play has graphic language in nature, Butler’s direction is very tasteful and integral to the language as it lands with the right sense of emotion to make you as the audience member feel uncomfortable in the events that are about to transpire.
The play follows the events leading to the trial of the murder of PFC. William Santiago’s death. It follows the story of trying to prove the innocence of Lance Cpl. Harold Dawson and PFC. Louden Downey, in a defense team led by L.T. J.G. Daniel Kaffee, L.T. J.G. Sam Wein-berg and Lt. Com. Joanne Galloway. I would go on to say that once the team is formed, we are taken on a journey that is sure to be a wild duck hunt as clue after clue is revealed leading to the ending verdict of Dawson and Downey’s fate. Aaron Butler has a great sense of urgency as the show flowed exponentially well, it did not feel like you were in a theatre for 2 hours and 45 minutes as this is a very long play.
Tom Knighten and Zeke Fable’s Dawson and Downey give you a sense of brainwash and delirium as it is almost creepy how these two charged with murder don’t even realize they can defend themselves until the very end when they realize they are finally free from the torture of Kendrick and Jessup. Like every good story, the hero always has a happy ending, and that is exactly what we see in Russell Sims’ portrayal of Daniel Kaffee, as he gives the conviction and perseverance that this character needs to free the men he is representing. While I liked the wit and attitude Tekia Gee gives, Lt Commander Joanne Galloway, at times there was a hindrance in the language, as there were projection issues at times, but the spunk and wit were there to a tee. Scott Straus as Colonel Nathan Jessup is one that makes you fear him. Straus commands the stage in every scene he’s in and really gives us a performance that is almost realistic in nature. What I loved about Straus’ performance is he did not hold back and was very blunt and straightforward, which is exactly what this character needs. Straus takes this role and makes it his own as he lets the anger and pent-up frustration brew to that iconic monologue, “You Can’t handle the Truth” which Patton does a fantastic job lighting this moment, as it gives us a sense of fear and rage, that does its job right in making you as the audience member completely uncomfortable at that moment. Other standouts include Tom McKee as Corporal Howard with his light-hearted wit in the courtroom, a sense of nobility and a stance in doing what is right in Jay People’s portrayal as Markinson, and an urgent yet cunning linguist in Janae Hatchett’s Jackie Ross as she takes charge in trying to cover up the wrongdoing’s of Kendrick and Jessep.
From a production standpoint, while every element was realistic in nature and created Sorkin’s world exactly as he envisions it, at times it’s almost like the pace is halted during the blackouts as it took a long time in places for the next scene to get set up which at times hindered the fantastic pace of urgency that these actors were bringing to the table. Aaron C Butler being a new director of the Garland Civic Theatre does a fantastic job in creating this world and inviting us in for a ride, as this story is very intense and shows you how one man’s cover-up, ends up “saving lives” (if you saw what I did there). And what I mean by that is without Cafe, Weinberg, and Hatchett, you wouldn’t get to see that triumphant moment leading to the final verdict. Jennifer Patton’s sound and lighting job are fantastic; however, I would have loved more as times there was complete dead space in the blackout which is why those blackouts may have killed the pace and urgency. The one thing I respected was the costume design of one Hope Cox, as she nailed the military uniforms to a tee as everything looked exactly how someone who served in the armed forces would dress, and the attention to detail with the badge placement was exactly what I loved. Mauldin & Kopek’s prop design, also was a huge standout as they did a fantastic job making the courtroom and offices come to life. In terms of the set, while I felt having the different areas worked, I did appreciate the attentiveness in Patton’s design as she did a phenomenal job using the space to their advantage by making 3 different areas and then having them come together with the courtroom looming in the background, which was a character in its own right.
In conclusion, A Few Good Men by Garland Civic Theatre leaves you with the exact emotion you are supposed to feel as you are left in a sense of intrigue and uncomfortability, which Butler does well in his direction.
A Few Good Men runs through February 12th with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:30 at the Granville Arts Center at 300 N 5th Street, Garland, TX 75040. For tickets, you can go to www.garlandartsboxoffice.com/tickets to purchase them.