Pioneer Theatre Company's 'A Few Good Men' makes for a good night out

Published: Monday, Jan. 27 2014 5:11 p.m. MST

Joe Tapper, left, Spencer Moses and Kate Middleton in Pioneer Theatre Company's "A Few Good Men," which runs through Feb. 8.

Alex Weisman

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“A FEW GOOD MEN” — Pioneer Theatre Company, 300 S. 1400 East, through Feb. 8, $25-$44, contains strong language, 801-581-6961 or pioneertheatre.org

Before it became a hit movie in 1992, “A Few Good Men” was a stage play written by Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin went on to write and direct numerous political/military projects such as “The West Wing” and, more recently, “Moneyball” and “The Newsroom.”

The trademark Sorkin rapid-fire dialogue and quick barbs are certainly present in Pioneer Theatre Company’s production of the drama, which runs through Feb. 8.

The movie is a pretty close adaptation of the play, so there are many similarities for those who’ve seen the movie. Lt. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway (Kate Middleton) is doggedly determined to find justice for two Marines, Lance Cpl. Dawson (Corey Allen) and Pfc. Louden Downey (Austin Archer). The two men are accused of murdering a fellow Marine in a hazing-type incident gone awry.

In 1986, the year in which the story takes place, the military had quite a different atmosphere for women than it does today. Galloway is forced to give up the case to Lt. J.G. Daniel A. Kaffee (Joe Tapper), a slick, fast-talking and unserious Navy attorney who is killing time until his contract is up.

Tapper does a great job as Kaffee — he’s the right mix of smarmy, likable, clever, witty and smart. PTC audiences may remember Tapper from last season’s “Of Mice and Men.” He plays well off of Middleton’s sassy, determined, strong-willed Galloway.

Allen and Archer, as the two accused Marines, are also standouts. (It’s also nice to see Archer, a local, in his PTC debut.)

Longtime PTC favorite Max Robinson is back as the conflicted Capt. Markinson, and he does a wonderful job as his character struggles with military honor and loyalty versus his own sense of right and wrong.

Torsten Hillhouse plays Lt. Col. Jessep, a highly decorated colonel with an impeccable service record who is stationed at Guantanamo Bay. Hillhouse didn’t bring the gravitas needed for such an intense character under high-stakes circumstances. He lacked the heft necessary to make grown men and soldiers squirm. Jessep’s presence, in any scene, should be palpable from the top of the balcony, and that was not the case.

The cast is a lot larger than it looks, and director Karen Azenberg takes the 18 men and one woman through the paces. The production clips along with military precision, one swift set change after another. PTC’s use of chain-link fencing (James Noone, scenic design) easily sets the various scenes, from baseball field to Guantanamo Bay to different jail holding cells.

Theatergoers should be aware the production contains strong language; the film version of "A Few Good Men" is rated R for language.

If you’re new to theater, this might be a great piece to jump in — quick dialogue, funny one-liners, political intrigue, military pomp and circumstance and one intense courtroom battle. “A Few Good Men” is a good night out.

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