Arts & Culture

Review: Theatre Raleigh’s ‘A Few Good Men’ good from top to bottom

With its gripping staging of “A Few Good Men,” Theatre Raleigh again proves it can assemble the necessary elements for a well-balanced, professional production.

This courtroom drama about military codes of honor boasts an impressive technical team, director and cast in a highly satisfying theatrical experience.

Aaron Sorkin based his script on events at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, fictionalizing them for his 1989 Broadway show (and 1992 movie). It concerns the trial of two Marines, accused of killing a company member in a hazing-style punishment for his alleged malingering.

Lawyer Daniel Kaffee, indifferently working through his minimum stint in the Navy, is assigned the case. He wants to negotiate a plea bargain, but Joanne Galloway, a lawyer from the Department of Internal Affairs, suspects the Marines were acting on orders from commanding officers. She prods Kaffee into further investigation, uncovering loyalties outside the vaunted military honor code.

Chris Bernier’s austere set of barbed wire-topped chain-link fencing establishes the drama’s troubling mood. Flashbacks at Guantánamo and present-day scenes in jail cells take place behind the fencing, given cold isolation through Thomas Mauney’s stark, often startling lighting. Courtroom scenes are cleverly set up in front of the fencing by cast members chanting marching cadences.

That’s just one of director Michael Berry’s many admirable details making the production snap with military precision. He never lets the tension lag, despite an overlong script – nearly three hours, with intermission.

Berry’s 16 actors are appropriately cast, down to the last MP. Charlie Brady’s Kaffee goes from wisecracking goof-off to avid fighter for justice with winning commitment. Laura Campbell’s feisty Galloway draws audience sympathy in her relentless fight against the military establishment.

The lawyers’ prime target is the accused Marines’ commanding officer, Col. Jessep, given frightening, self-righteous menace by Christopher Russo. John Allore’s Capt. Markinson is a study in self-doubt and recrimination, while Ira David Wood IV makes Lt. Kendrick ‘s undoubting religious zeal all too real. David McClutchey’s conscience-torn doctor, Jade Arnold’s humorously obedient defense witness and Deon Releford-Lee’s fiercely defiant accused Marine are notable among the rest of this fine ensemble.

Kudos to Theatre Raleigh for its continued dedication to high standards, making each new production something to be eagerly anticipated.

Dicks: music_theater@lycos.com

If you go

What: “A Few Good Men” presented by Theatre Raleigh

Where: Kennedy Theatre, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East South Street, Raleigh

When: 8 p.m. June 18-20 and 24-27; 2 p.m. June 20 and 27; 3 p.m. June 21 and 28

Tickets: $27 (seniors, students, military $25)

Info: 919-832-9997 or theatreraleigh.com

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