‘A Few Good Men’ explores justice, honor

A-A few Good Men Colby Patterson
Cast members from “A Few Good Men” Left to right: Joe Tapper (Kaffee), Spencer Moses (Weinberg) and Kate Middleton (Galloway). Photo courtesy of Alex Weisman.

Cast members from “A Few Good Men” Left to right: Joe Tapper (Kaffee), Spencer Moses (Weinberg) and Kate Middleton (Galloway). Photo courtesy of Alex Weisman.

The famous quote, “You can’t handle the truth!” has made its rounds through countless movies and books, but it originated from the 1989 play, “A Few Good Men” by Aaron Sorkin. It was later depicted in the popular 1992 film starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore.

This story now graces the Pioneer Theatre Company’s stage with a stellar cast and a solemn depiction.

The topics of military, justice and truth are brought up in this famed piece. When two marines are charged with murder and conspiracy at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, authorities in Washington D.C. question the storyline supplied by the Cuba-based marines.

Thus, a riveting storyline unravels as the search for truth emerges and the controversial topics of military Code Reds (extreme hazing) and rebellion against higher authorities are made known.

It is this gripping story that director Karen Azenberg beautifully orchestrates at the Pioneer Theatre. With costume and scenic designers Carol Wells-Day and James Noone at the helm, a seamless naval environment is represented in a minimal and well-ordered way.

The stunningly regimented Corey Allen depicts Lance Cpl. Harold W. Dawson, one of the marines being charged with murder. Fellow marine Pfc. Louden Downey is played by Austin Archer. The duet performance between the two sustains the reverence and solemnity the situation demands. While being charged for murder, both marines uphold their naval code and place high honor above all other priorities.

Coming to their aid is Joe Tapper as Lt. Daniel Kaffee, a witty and smart-mouthed lawyer. Kaffee’s eventual desire for truth brings to light the misdeeds committed by high Naval authorities and ultimately saves Dawson and Downey from a guilty title and time in prison.

Tapper is brilliant in his easeful ways and complete surrender to Kaffee’s unique character. His whole-hearted performance is the livelihood within this play, and he is the initiator of on-stage chemistry between the cast and ensemble.

Helping Kaffee is passionate and overbearing Lt. Cmdr. JoAnne Galloway played by Kate Middleton. Middleton’s concise portrayal solidifies Galloway’s determination and resilience to help the sentenced marines, and she works quite well with Tapper as duo lawyers and partners in justice.

Amidst the heavy Cuban conversations and tension-filled courtroom scenes, comedic relief arrives in the form of Lt. Sam Weinberg, played by Spencer Moses. Moses redirects audience’s attention toward the frivolity and frankly humorous situations sparsely scattered throughout the play.

Torsten Hillhouse stars as Col. Nathan R. Jessep, Jessep being the Naval superior who ordered Dawson and Downey to carry out the Code Red. Accompanying Hillhouse is Amos Omer, who portrays extremist Lt. Jonathan Kendrick. Together, Hillhouse and Omer depict the darker side within the military and bring the honor code to an entirely new level. The absolute drive and raw passion both actors display while depicting these complex characters brings another dimension to the performance and leaves the audience collectively gripping the edge of its seat.

The play runs through Feb. 8. Two free tickets for U students can be obtained an hour before the show during rush.

l.randall@chronicle.utah.edu