It will come as no surprise to fans of writer Aaron Sorkin's work on television like The West Wing, or in movies like The Social Network, that the man's way with words truly shines in a live theater environment.
Pioneer Theatre Company's current production of Sorkin's A Few Good Men flies by in a blaze of witty one-liners, dramatic speeches and courtroom dramatics. Sorkin's dialogue is delivered by a consistently stellar cast led by Joe Tapper as Lt. J.G. Daniel Kaffee and Kate Middleton as Lt. Comdr. Joanne Galloway--two military lawyers trying to get to the bottom of an apparent murder of a Marine stationed in Cuba by members of his own unit.
Most audience members are probably familiar with the Oscar-nominated 1992 film version of A Few Good Men starring Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Jack Nicholson, but the live production quickly pushes memories of that to the side thanks to a creative set full of shifting chain-link fences, intricate lighting and fluid direction by Pioneer Artistic Director Karen Azenberg. All told, the stage design was minimalist compared to many of the ornate productions at Pioneer, giving even more emphasis to Sorkin's words.
Those words are in good hands with the cast. In addition to the appropriately smarmy Tapper and self-serious Middleton's characters, who bicker their way into finding common ground in the search for justice, several others shine in Pioneer's production. Torsten Hillhouse's take on Lt. Col. Nathan Jessep (Nicholson's role in the film) is an emphatic demonstration of the career military man with a warped sense of priorities. Max Robinson (as Capt. Markinson) and Amos Omer as Lt. Kendrick--two superiors of the accused soldiers--both delivery vivid performances, while Corey Allen and Austin Archer as the accused fighting for freedom are solid as pawns in the game being played by their superiors.
A Few Good Men remains a strong theater experience decades after its debut, and seeing it post-9/11 gives some added resonance. It's well worth seeing for a mid-winter dash of drama.
Pioneer Theatre Company's A Few Good Men runs through Feb. 8; tickets and showtimes are available at the theater website. Photos courtesy of Pioneer Theatre Company.