Presented by Not Another Theatre Company
Location Fire & Ice Banquet Pavilion, 528 Hiawatha Blvd Syracuse
Running time 145 minutes with an intermission
Dates Now through Oct. 1
Tickets $29 Single Dinner, $55 Couples Dinner, $199 tables of 8, $20 Show only.
By Frank Ready
“Where did you hear that?”
My father was wondering why his 14-year-old son, whom he had expressly forbade to watch R rated movies was quoting a line from “A Few Good Men,” which was, you guessed it, rated R.
The truth was that I hadn’t seen the movie. I had, however, accrued roughly several million hours of television by that point in my life. I had become the pop-cultural equivalent of a parrot, absorbing and repeating catchphrases and quotes without any idea what they really meant.
“You can’t handle the truth!” I had quoted moments before, after which time had seemed to slow to a stop and a voice in my head had begun shouting idiot, idiot, idiot.
The truth was, I just thought it was awesome line. I couldn’t even remember where I had heard it.
That’s precisely the challenge facing Not Another Theater Company’s production of “A Few Good Men”
It’s a play so quotable, so steeped in pop-culture, that success requires the clearance of a bar set so high that even a slight stumble could leave them with a long way to fall.
It’s a tumble that the actors and crew at the Fire & Ice Banquet Facilities managed to avoid, doing poetic justice to Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant writing, while still managing to make the play their own.
Conducted in the tradition of theater in-the round, the production had to work with a limited set, a constraint that would seem to fly in the face of the epic scale of Sorkin’s book. They made the most of it though, utilizing well-timed spotlights to shift the focus of a scene from the front to the back of the stage within in an instant.
It’s a technique that worked to great effect, echoing the quick cuts of a movie and energizing the momentum of the play. Events seemed to unfold quickly, one after the other, providing a much-needed pulse to a talky play, even one with dialogue as sharp as Sorkin’s.
Going in, I had been nervous that the writer’s propensity for quick-witted banter would be a hurdle too difficult for the actors to clear. Sorkin’s dialogue has a cadence and rhythm to it that has to be sustained in order for the words to take their full effect, requiring each actor present in a scene to be humming at the same tune.
Jordan Glaski as navy lawyer Daniel Kaffee, and James Uva as his friend and fellow law-practitioner Sam Weinberg had the rhythm down just right. Their verbal back-and-forth was sharp and masterful. Katie Deferio did an admirable job as Lieutenant Commander Joanne Galloway, her resolute sternness acting as an apt foil for Glaski’s more rambunctious Kafee.
Joe Pierce had the unenviable job of playing Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Jessup, the role occupied by Jack Nicholson in the film. Pierce conveys the character’s almost manic conviction in his own beliefs well, but struggles to bring the same dignity that Nicholson carried at all times.
The actors all brought their A-game to the play’s climactic courtroom scene, but something about it still felt off. I kept waiting to feel the rush I felt every time I pictured the cinematic showdown between Nicholson and Tom Cruise, but it never came. The pace seemed to accelerate, stop, and then accelerate again-- never achieving the gradually building pressure that made it’s film counterpart so great.
That’s not to say that it wasn’t easy to get lost in this production of “A Few Good Men,” because it was. It’s a good story that was told very well here.
Not that 14-year old me knew that. He was still struggling to think of an answer to give my father that wouldn’t result in a lecture.
“I don’t know Dad, I think it’s from a movie,” I said.
My Dad smiled.
“It’s from ‘A Few Good Men.’ It’s a great movie,” he said.
It’s not a bad play either, Dad.