by Nancy Holley
Special KRL coupon code at the end of this article.
A Few Good Men may be remembered best as an iconic movie, but it was originally an outstanding play which has been translated into many languages and performed world-wide. The Visalia Players are closing their sixty-first season with this powerful courtroom drama.
Director Leeni Mitchell has wanted to stage this production for a long time. “I love courtroom drama, and I love the military, so this is perfect!”
It can be debated whether hazing is a tradition in the Marine Corps, but in the 1980s at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base where the play is set, retaliatory hazing known as “Code Red” did occur. When a hazing goes wrong and a marine dies, someone must be held accountable.
As the play opens, Lance Cpl. Dawson and Pfc. Downey are being court martialed for the murder of Pfc. Santiago. Their defense attorney Lt. j.g. Kaffee wants an easy way out with a plea bargain, but Dawson and Downey refuse to deal.
In addition, Lt. Cmdr. Galloway, who wanted to try the case but was denied the opportunity, is convinced that Dawson and Downey were only following “Code Red” orders. She believes that those who issued the orders should be held accountable, not just those who obeyed them.
The military code of honor requires following orders. When orders are given, they are followed without question. Although an order may be considered illegal under the law, recruits are not trained to distinguish between legal and illegal orders.
Charged with prosecuting the case is Lt. Ross. He is accountable to the ranking officers on the base: Col. Jessup and Lt. Col. Markinson, as well as Lt. Kendrick, Dawson, and Downey’s commanding officer.
Discussing her character Lt. Cmdr. Galloway, Leiana Petlewski notes, “She is a strong woman who has had to put up with a lot from coworkers and bosses. She has a strong set of morals which drive all her decisions including pushing for a jury trial.”
John Olmos, who portrays Col. Jessup, sees the colonel as very one-sided. “His role is basically not to be charged with a crime. He uses two young marines as scapegoats to a murder, but he doesn’t believe that he has done anything wrong by doing this.”
In the role of Lt. j.g. Kaffee, Joseph Troncozo identifies a young man “trying to stay out of his father’s shadow. If you set low expectations, you don’t have to worry about letting people down. Luckily for him, he starts discovering who he is and grows up.”
Even though the defending and prosecuting attorneys are friends of long standing, Evan Huckabay, as Lt. Ross, points out that “he is not conflicted in his mission. His main priority is to save Jessup and others from embarrassment.”
Ricky Herrera (Pfc. Downey) explains that his role serves as a warning of the “dangers of group think,” which is further exemplified by Bryce Huckabay’s comments about his character Lance Cpl. Dawson, “He believes in loyalty no matter what. He has to follow orders no matter what.”
The issues underlying the 1980s case are relevant today: power, authority, racism, and sexism. Playwright Aaron Sorkin adroitly weaves them all into a thought-provoking scenario revealed through the talents of the actors and director. As Mitchell noted, “You get to see why they did what they did and why they shouldn’t have done it.”
A Few Good Men opens at the Ice House Theatre at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 15, 2018, and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 6/15, 6/16, 6/22, 6/23, 6/29, and 6/30, and matinees at 2 p.m. on 6/17, 6/24, and 7/1.
The Players are grateful to Season Sponsors: Family Healthcare Network, Graham & Associates, Lansdowne, Inc., and Martin Enterprises.
For more information about the Visalia Community Players and to purchase tickets, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 734-3900. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.
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To purchase two tickets for the price of one, enter KRLFGM in the Have a code? box on the Buy/Redeem Tickets Reservation page via the Players website.