A Few Good Men, a drama centering around the trial of two Marines who have been accused of murdering a fellow Marine while stationed at the infamous Guantanamo Bay installation in Cuba, opens this Friday at The Actors Guild of Parkersburg. The story revolves around the defense team, who are trying to prove the men were just following orders when something went terribly wrong, while the prosecution tries to lay the blame solely on the accused. The show, directed masterfully by Charlie Matthews, will run for three weekends.
The defense team are the stars of the show, and they are more than up to the task. David Prather does a consummate job of transforming Lt. J. G. Daniel Kaffee from a brilliant but lackadaisical lawyer who is just putting in his time until he can be discharged and join a high-powered civilian law firm into a bulldog who won’t stop until the truth is revealed. George Litman is also stellar in a role that goes against his usual type. Lt. J. G. Sam Weinberg may seem lighthearted on the surface, but he has an angry drive to protect the weak and disenfranchised and punish those who take advantage of them. The scene in which that anger bubbles to the surface is powerful to watch. The third member of the team, Lt. Commander Joanne Galloway, is brilliantly played by Torrey Archer. Being the only woman in this testosterone-filled story, Archer gives as good as she gets.
On the other side of the trial is Danny Bayer’s Lt. Jack Ross, who, while he’s friends with Kaffee, will do all he can within his abilities to convict the defendants. And his abilities are considerable. Bayer’s performance is powerfully effective, as he creates a character who is likable but tough.
But as anyone who knows this story will attest, the role that can make or break the play is that of Lt. Col. Nathan Jessep. Pick an actor that can’t fill this man’s puffed-up persona, and the play will fall flat. Well, no need to worry about that, as Mike Dotson, a kind and truly gentle man in real life, morphs into a beast onstage as Jessep, a Marine’s Marine, military with every fiber of his being. He sees his role as the leader of those who do what no one else can do to ensure the freedoms he doesn’t feel the rest of us truly appreciate enough. So, while he’s a true warrior, he’s also somewhat embittered—a dangerous combination. And Dotson oozes that danger with every movement.
The set, though relatively simple, is a subtle but powerful force in the play. Reminiscent of the set in another courtroom drama, Inherit the Wind, the wall separating the Americans and the Cubans is always in the background, looming over every action, every reaction, every word. Adding an air of realism to the show are the costumes. The Guild wisely chose to rent real uniforms rather than try to cobble together what they could from their costume closet.
This play is probably not for everyone. The language is quite strong at times, and there are violent and dark scenes. But this is an impactful, well-done show, one that is important to see. It opens Friday, March 4 at 8:00pm, with subsequent evening performances on March 5, 11, 12, 18, and 19. There will be one matinee on Sunday March 13 at 2:30. Tickets are available by going to the Guild’s website, or by calling the box office at 304-485-1300. The box office will also be open two hours prior to each show. Go see this show. You’ll be glad you did.