A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

“A Few Good Men” Stands Tall: Walking “The Wall” with SRJC Theatre

Rosella Bearden and Justin Brown both deliver excellent performances as the two protagonists of Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men, directed here at SRJC by Laura Downing-Lee. The show runs March 8-17.

Like the guards pacing the ambiguous “wall” framing the back of the stage, Aaron Sorkin’s drama, “A Few Good Men,” walks a dangerous, but necessary, line bridging the world of violence with the peaceful civilian lives we take for granted.

This play is even timelier with the current changes in war, changes blurring the lines and bringing “the wall” ever closer to our home, where soldiers defend us on domestic, as well as foreign soil.

With such a powerful and valuable piece, Santa Rosa Junior College’s Theatre Arts Department tackled the challenge with gusto, bravado and a line-up of Marine-quality shouters. The theater department brought this piece to life with a beautiful set and creative use of lighting, creating a stark, austere ambiance. The marching chants and well-timed sound effects add touches of realism to the experience.

The acting is good enough that even those familiar with the story are affected by the ending. The few weaker parts of the show did not detract much from the performance, and many will iron themselves out under the pressure of a watchful audience.

Entering the auditorium, the simple set draws the eye as a single armed guard paces back and forth upstage in front of a background lit up like the setting sun. Observant audience members may notice more armed guards pacing the catwalks above; altogether they project the feel of a military prison.

The show opens strong with Lance Corporal Harold W. Dawson (Jalil Houssain) and Private First Class Louden Downey (Brett Mollard) giving background on the story of how they have killed their fellow Marine, PFC. William T. Santiago (Jose L. del Toro). The imagery presents a strong and striking scene, making beautiful use of the stage and lighting.

The play unfolds from here, bringing to light conspiracies and secrets about how the Marine Corps operates and how the people who volunteer to stand between us and evil defend our country. The play revolves around how investigative officer Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway (Rosella Bearden) works with Lieutenant Junior Grade Daniel A. Kaffee (Justin Brown) to defend the two Marines.

The play ramps up quickly with the introduction of other strong characters, including the infamous Colonel Nathan Jessup (Chris Ginesi) who delivers a powerful performance different enough from the iconic Jack Nicholson version to avoid comparison. When he cuts in with the famous line, “You can’t handle the truth!” his performance is powerful enough to raise hairs on the back of one’s neck.

Overall the acting was strong, especially in the second act as the actors warmed up to the stage and overcame slight stiffness. The only real complaints about the actors is the canned feeling of Brown’s discovery of his magic bullet at the climax and the actors’ hats may need an abuse hotline if they keep knocking them off chairs and tables around the set. Such minor problems will fix themselves quickly as the show progresses.

The set and tech were gorgeous, despite early misgivings when seeing them under the house lights. The minimal set and small changes work seamlessly and translate well in conjunction with the lighting. Only in one instance does this fail: when Brown, Bearden and Brown’s buddy and assistant Lt. J.G. Sam Weinberg (Nathan Luft-Runner) are in a bizarre transitional space that makes use of the courtroom furniture, but the scene doesn’t seem to be set in the courtroom. The scene itself works well but there was some confusion about where it takes place.

The sound design worked well to provide a great atmosphere. Specific effects, like a helicopter landing at the base in Guantanamo Bay or the chatter of Brown’s baseball companions, set the background and contributed to the show’s realism. The only exception to this was the firing of a gun towards the end of the show, which had a slightly toy-like and poppy sound, providing almost a comical end to such a climactic event.

The overall performance is fantastic and enthralling. Though you can’t handle the play, you definitely need to see it.

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Nadav Soroker, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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