Review : 'A Few Good Men' at Bridgeport Theatre Company

Chris Peterson

Staging a courtroom drama for live theatre is a tough challenge. Staging a courtroom drama that was adapted into a great movie with some of the most iconic dialogue in cinematic history is a tough challenge.  Doing all of this in front of an audience who are splitting their attention between what's on stage and eating garlic based food and drinking cheap wine, is an incredibly tough challenge. 

But the cast of A Few Good Men at the Bridgeport Theatre Company takes on this challenge head on, even with a sliver of the bravery of the professions they're portraying. While there are some successes and failures, the effort is there and that should always be admired and applauded. 

A Few Good Men, a play by Aaron Sorkin, follows the story of two marines who are charged in the death of a fellow Marine at Guantanamo Bay. As their military lawyer explores their case, he uncovers an intense conspiracy, which puts him in a big predicament. Eventually, he makes a noble and fearless effort to defend his clients, which puts the Marine code of honor on trial.

The cast is chock full of talent. Overall they turn in a strong performance, some of whom are stepping on stage for the first time. There is talent on that stage especially with the performances from Glenn Ghirardi, Will Jeffries, Julie Petrak, Larry Gabbard and Frank Speranzo, each deftly avoiding comparisons to the on screen versions. However the two performances I was most impressed with, were that of Lance Cpl. Harold W Dawson and Ptc. Louden Downey, portrayed by Stanley Geter and Eric Regan. There has to be a conflict of duty and fear in these performances and both Mr. Geter and Mr. Regan show it on their faces with every line. 

However what this courtroom drama lacks the most is in fact, the drama. With any courtroom piece, because they are usually so steeped in terminology, any sense of compelling drama comes from tone and pace, both of which were, for the most part, missing from this production. 

The sound quality has never been one of the Downtown Cabaret Theatre's strong points, so much so it's the one hindrance with otherwise incredible BTC productions. But here, it brings the entire production down. Because of the lack of natural acoustics, sound doesn't project well off the stage at all and in effect, mutes every vocal performance that isn't shouting. And when you can't hear the subtleties of a fine dramatic performance, it becomes less palpable and nothing is compelling. Many times the audience would laugh throughout the performance, sometimes at punchlines but also at moments where there weren't. And when the more iconic lines of the play come up, the audience claps and laughs rather than being so sucked in, they hardly even notice. You either have to mic every actor individually or mic the stage to the point you can hear a pin drop. 

The other issue bugging this production is pace. The beauty of Sorkin's words is all in the timing. Lines have to be right on top of each other, the humor is dry and quick and the insults are cutting. When the pace is off, which it was for most of the performance,  just like doing Shakespeare without iambic pentameter, much of the text's power is lost. 

And while I hardly ever criticize this in any production, the costumes in this production create some issues as well. If you're going to try to be as detailed as possible with military uniforms, you have to be correct with those details, especially if you're making a concerted effort with inviting military personnel with box office incentives. Poorly hemmed pants and sleeves, missing medical officer pins and matching a white combination cap with service khaki's might not be viewed as erroneous to the average audience member, but to some, it could be seen as egregious. Once again, because BTC and costume designer Jessica Camarero are trying to be as detailed as possible, you have to get those details right. As its stated in the play, those who have worn that uniform, have earned that effort. 

These issues aside, director Eli Newsom has put together a solid performance of an iconic text. Especially this being Memorial Day weekend, I recommend taking this one in. 

The rest of the company includes Eric Dino, T. Sean Maher, Joe Cardozo, Christopher Beaurline, Ethan Warner, John Atkin, Roger Dykeman, AJ Backik and Qesar Veliu. 

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