Audiences are making a mistake if they think A Few Good Men is a courtroom thriller and nothing more, says Alley Theatre Artistic Director Gregory Boyd.
"Its provenance certainly lies in the tradition of courtroom drama and murder mysteries on the one hand -- and it's a ripplingly good exemplar of that -- but it is a play of characters and relationships as well -- much more so than most 'thrillers.' And it has a big-hearted love of theater and of language -- most thrillers just don't give you that."
The work was a breakthrough moment for playwright Aaron Sorkin when it debuted on Broadway in 1989 and ran more than a year. A Few Good Men is ideally suited for theater, Boyd says -- despite the popular 1992 movie with Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore that followed.
"It was written for the theater, and uses all the resources of theater to tell an exciting story in a very theatrical way," Boyd explains. "It is very rarely produced -- partly due to the fact that it is huge and most theater companies don't have the resources to do it. So I think it's a real treat to see it in the theater, as the author conceived it. And so much of its wonderful language is missing from the film version."
Back on stage in a revised version by Sorkin, the story's the same: Two Marines accused in the hazing death of a fellow soldier while stationed at Guantanamo Bay get assigned a rookie officer to defend them.
Boyd decided it was time to put it on in Houston, especially following the success of The Farnsworth Invention (another Sorkin product) at the Alley.
"Aaron Sorkin was with us at the Alley during our production of his play The Farnsworth Invention; he and I were talking about the revisions he had made to A Few Good Men following his work on the film. He wanted to see the revised version onstage, and it was produced in London in 2005, but not in the U.S. That's all the impetus I needed," Boyd says.
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The large cast, filled with Alley regulars and out-of-towners, includes David Pegram and Max Carpenter as the Marines charged with the murder; Jeremy Webb as Daniel Kaffee, the military lawyer who defends them; Emily Neves as JoAnne Galloway, the passionate military lawyer who helps Kaffee; and Lee Sellars as Lt. Col. Nathan Jessep, the accused men's commanding officer. Alley Theatre Resident Company members Jeffrey Bean, James Black, David Rainey, Jay Sullivan and Todd Waite also appear.
And this is a play that, if anything, has become more meaningful to audiences, Boyd says.
"The play resonates with me, and I think will with audiences now, more than it ever has. Cover-ups and conspiracies were and unfortunately are daily news events -- but the deeper issues of morality and love of country that the play reveals are much sharper now."
A Few Good Men runs March 1-24 at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit www.alleytheatre.org. $26 to $68.