By Tom Titus
When playgoers arrive at the Westminster Community Playhouse to see “A Few Good Men,” most of them probably will carry memories of the brilliant 1992 movie version, which culminated in an incendiary clash between stars Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson.
Those images quickly fade as a solid and substantial Westminster cast tackles Aaron Sorkin’s military drama, skillfully orchestrated by director Lenore Stjerne. We all know the “big scene” is coming but we savor the pungent moments leading up to it.
Sorkin’s powerful yet highly literate story focuses on a brash young Navy lieutenant, a neophyte in the courtroom, striving to defend two marines facing murder charges for giving another marine a fatal “Code Red” disciplinary action. Were they “just following orders,” and if so, does that really justify their conduct in the court-martial?
At Westminster, some exceptional performances emerge, particularly that of the snide and belligerent Marine Corps colonel who oversees the guardians of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Jeff June brings an authoritarian military bearing (and a Kirk Douglas chin) to his superior interpretation.
As the David to June’s hulking Goliath, Kevin Stark appears appropriately overmatched, but gains traction as the play progresses. Occasionally uneven in his delivery, Stark prevails despite bearing the physical appearance of a naïve teen-age boy.
Enacting the burr under Stark’s saddle is his female partner on the defense team, played with sardonic vitriol by Michelle Pederson. Anthony Baratta rounds out the triumvirate as a mild-mannered – to a point – legal assistant.
The rock-solid, by-the-book lance corporal facing murder charges is brilliantly interpreted by Ahmed Brooks. His servile PFC companion is well played by Jesse Ornelas.
Jonah Snyder has some effective moments as the training lieutenant composed of equal measures of Marine Corps propaganda and religious nut jobbery, though his enthusiasm occasionally muddles his projection. Brian McFadden is excellent as the prosecutor who’s also a buddy and softball rival of Stark’s defense counsel.
A few more good men in the Westminster cast are Michael Pierce as a JAG captain, Randy Calcetas as June’s uneasy subordinate at Gitmo, Richard DeVicaris as the Marines’ compromised doctor and Dave Skinner as the court-martial judge.
A few more weeks remain to catch “A Few Good Men” at the Westminster Community Playhouse, 7272 Maple St., Westminster. It runs weekends (Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.) through April 24 and reservations are being taken at (714) 893-8626.
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