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A Few Good Men

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    This Asolo play is timely but can feel a little overdone.   By Kay Kipling   Most of us are familiar with the motto of the United State Marines Corps, which is “looking for a few good men.” How many remember the Edmund Burke quotation, “All that is necessary for the triumph of […]

February 12, 2007


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This Asolo play is timely but can feel a little overdone.
 
By Kay Kipling
 
Most of us are familiar with the motto of the United State Marines Corps, which is “looking for a few good men.” How many remember the Edmund Burke quotation, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing?” Both are significant to Aaron Sorkin’s play, currently onstage at the Asolo Repertory Theatre.
 
The connection of the first quote is obvious; Sorkin’s work deals with the death of a young Marine at Guantanamo Bay at the hands of fellow Marines, who feel they were duty bound to follow orders to “straighten” out the victim for his failings. The second quote comes to mind when considering the men—actually, initially the woman—whose job it becomes to find out the truth about that death.


Bryant Richards and Alix McEachern Jones in a scene from the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s A Few Good Men.
 
Those familiar with Sorkin’s writing (most notably on TV’s West Wing) will not be surprised to discover that though the subject matter here is serious, there is also a great deal of humor in the play. That’s demonstrated by the ready—and occasionally too slick—banter that ensues among the lawyers on the case, especially the untried young Daniel (Bryant Richards), his friend and colleague Sam (David Breitbarth) and the official who’s insisting there’s more to the story than a couple of overzealous Marines (Alix McEachern Jones, whose severe hairstyle and eager beaver manner are overdone at times).
 
That’s not the only thing that feels overdone; the shouting (yes, we know they shout in the military, but all the time?), the drumbeats that signify to us how important the story is, and perhaps even the way that the participants in the trial that fills the second act face and speak to us and not to each other can come across as stagy. That said, the questions at the heart of the play—how far will military men go in the name of protecting America, and how do the rest of us respond to that—are certainly valid and always timely ones, and there’s no doubt that the piece’s climax is one of the more memorable of courtroom dramas.
 
The Asolo opening night audience obviously felt they got their money’s worth, and many of Sorkin’s lines hit their targets. I’m hoping, though, that as the actors settle into their roles they’ll be able to make their characters more living, breathing people than stand-ins for a point of view.
 
A Few Good Men plays in rotating rep through May 5. For tickets call 351-8000 or go to asolo.org.