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Arts and Entertainment

Springfield Little Theatre Presents Original Stage Version of 'A Few Good Men'

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(Poster design courtesy Springfield Little Theatre)
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Aaron Sorkin's 1992 Oscar-nominated film A Few Good Men is the powerful story of two U.S. Marines on trial for the murder of a fellow Marine at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  A callow young Navy lawyer, known as the "king of the plea bargains," is put in charge of the accused Marines' defense team. One member of that team prods the lawyer into making a valiant effort to defend his clients--and in the process putting the military mentality and the Marine code of honor on trial.

It's not well known, however, that A Few Good Men was originally a play on Broadway in 1986.  The stage version will be presented by Springfield Little Theatre through January 31st at the Landers Theatre, 311 E. Walnut. C.J. Maples directs the production, and she says the stage play was actually Sorkin's first big project. "He was working on it kind in pieces as he was bartending to make a living, writing on cocktail napkins and such." That's the story, anyway, says Jessica Palmer, who plays Lt. Commander JoAnne Galloway.  She says the play and movie are based no a true story.  Sorkin's sister Deborah was herself an attorney and suggested the idea to Aaron Sorkin, "got the juices flowing for him, and that's where it all started."

Sorkin's work on A Few Good Men preceded his creation of what C.J. Maples calls "one of my favorites," the TV series The West Wing.  Adds Aaron Campbell, who plays the Navy lawyer Lt. Daniel Kaffee, "he also wrote The Social Network--there are a lot of movies out there that Aaron Sorkin wrote that people might recognize, including the recent biopic of Steve Jobs. Campbell describes his character, Lt. Kaffee, as being rather unenthusiastic about his job. "He comes to work, and he knows what the day's going to be, 'and then I'm gonna go play softball, I'm gonna go home and drink my Yoohoo.' He likes to muddle his way through things.  But the thing is, he's a really brilliant guy--when he applies himself. And you (experience) the transformation of him throughout the entire show, along with all the other characters." Adds C.J. Maples, "up until this case, he's not been in the courtroom--he's a master of plea bargains."

But not this time. Navy Lt. Commander JoAnne Galloway reads over the case and, says Jessica Palmer, she "thinks (the defendants) should not plead guilty, they should fight this.  I (JoAnne) have an instinct, and I'm also extremely diligent with research and investigation."  JoAnne asks to be assigned the case herself, but their boss instead gives it to the less experienced Daniel, putting JoAnne on his defense team.

Director C.J. Maples found Sorkin's play "scary" at first, because although he wrote it for the stage, he wsa already demonstrating an affinity for the very different kind of writing and scene-setting demanded by TV and movies, jumping from Washington, DC to Guantanamo and back, with near-instant costume changes. "Fortunately, after getting used to the script and doing a lot of analysis and dramaturgy for it," C.J. says she managed to cast the play extremely well. "Every one of them has made the characters their own--they're honest, have a depth to them, and are very compelling." While the basic storyline and script are the same from play to movie, C.J. feels that "the telling of it through live theater is much more--people can relate to the characters much easier, it's more heartfelt. You really get caught up in this story. At the preview last night, one of the best comments I got was from a lady at intermission who said, 'I didn't want the intermission to come--I want it to keep going!'"

A Few Good Men opens tonight (Friday Jan.22) at 7:30pm at the Landers, with performances tomorrow night, as well as next Wednesday-Saturday Jan.27-30 at 7:30. There are two Sunday matinees at 2:30pm, January 24 and 31.  For ticket information visit http://www.springfieldlittletheatre.org or call the Landers Theatre box office at (417) 869-1334.