By Jennifer L. Gusso
Running Time: 2 hours and 40 minutes with one intermission
A Few Good Men is definitely an understatement. The current Tidewater Players’ production, written by Aaron Sorkin and running at the Havre de Grace Opera House has many exceptionally good men and one exceptionally good woman. Under the masterful direction of Todd Starkey, this is a brilliant and compelling production that is not to be missed. Gorgeous staging and lighting combined with powerhouse performance after powerhouse performance, it really doesn’t get any better than this.
Starkey makes the first of many excellent decisions with his set design and the corresponding staging. By creating different scenes in different portions of the stage, he is able to avoid complex set changes and create minimal time spent in blackout. This allows the action to flow and segue quickly. Starkey also intentionally blocks scene within in those sections to allow for varied and interested movement, even in smaller staging areas. The set and staging are enhanced beautifully by the gorgeous and artistic lighting design of Moises Estrada. Powerful use of red, white, and blue, a subtle flag background, and the shadows of prison bars are just a few of the transcendent ways in which the lights become an intricate part of the production. The perfectly designed look of the show is furthered by the precise costuming of Eva Grove.
Within those uniforms, there is a host of characters that are brought to life by a group of talented performers. The audience is first introduced to Lance Cpl. Harold W. Dawson (Lamar Leonard) and Pfc. Louden Downey (Jordan Baumiller). Leonard and Baumiller use their body language and posture to show the dedication of their characters to the Marine Corp from moment one. As the audience gets to know the two characters better, the two actors create characters that feel real. Leonard manages to let us see the heart of his character without ever losing the precision to duty that is so essential to Dawson. Downey plays a character that is incredibly naïve and is able to do this so realistically that performance doesn’t look forced or over-the-top.
The rest of the cast follows in their footsteps. Shining appearances are made by Tim Hartley (Capt. Isaac Whitaker) and Phil Hansel (Col. Julius Alexander Randolph). As Lt. Jack Ross, Aaron Dalton makes the opposing counsel warm and respectable. In a truly top-notch portrayal of duty turned sadistic, Leif McCurry stands out as Lt. Jonathan James Kendrick.
Of course, it is the defense team that compromises the protagonists of the piece, and all three create distinct, nuanced, and lovable characters. As Lt. j.g. Sam Weinberg, Jake Stuart masters deadpan comedy and projecting complex emotions with appropriate restraint. As Lt. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway, Samantha Murray absolutely dazzles. She is so feisty and passionate and raw. She makes you want to stand up and cheer with her victories. At the center of it all, Lt. j.g. Daniel A. Kaffee is truly the heart of the piece. In the hands of charismatic Joe Weinhoffer, it is truly enjoyable to watch the character mature and acquire depth as he becomes a lawyer.
Good guys aside, though, it is Brian Ruff’s performance as Col. Nathan Jessep that has chins falling to the floor. With flawless rage and believable conviction, he brings a true egomaniacal monster to life. His performance alone would make the production worth seeing. However, in this particularly well-crafted production, Ruff’s performance is just the icing on the already masterful cake.
Everyone should find a way to see Tidewater Players’ A Few Good Men before it closes on Sunday.
This is what I thought of Tidewater Players’ production of A Few Good Men… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
A Few Good Men will play through September 29 at Tidewater Players at The Cultural Center at the Opera House, 121 N. Union Street, Havre de Grace, MD. Purchase tickets at the door one hour before show time or purchase them online.
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