Los Angeles Theater Review: A FEW GOOD MEN (Sky Lounge in North Hollywood)

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by Barnaby Hughes on March 2, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles


Just three years after Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men (1989) was produced on Broadway, the play’s popularity was eclipsed by the film version with Tom Cruise. Revivals of the play are rare, but based on the vivid production by Rise Above Theatre Movement (RATMO), the courtroom drama is certainly ripe for revival. Not only is Sorkin’s reputation higher than ever (Emmys for The West Wing and an Oscar for The Social Network), but the play’s Guantanamo Bay setting is more infamous now than in the eighties. The play, which centers on a neophyte Navy lawyer who defends two U.S. Marines charged with murdering a colleague, introduced us to one of filmdom’s most famous quotes: “You can’t handle the truth!”

RATMO recently purchased its very own theatre in North Hollywood. Formerly NOHO Stages B, the Venue Sky Lounge is tiny – perhaps 40 seats – and there is no backstage, simply a black curtain that leads right out the back of the building. Director Kenne Guillory and set designer Rocco Ambrosio make excellent use of the limited playing area. In an effort to maximize space, the first two rows of audience seating on the right side has been removed and the stage furniture is minimal. As a result, the intensity of the proceedings is heightened, such as when soldiers parade up and down the aisle chanting their marching songs. All of this allows the audience to be not mere spectators, but intimately involved in the action going on around them.

Much like the Antaeus Company (which performs just a few doors down), RATMO uses multiple casts. For A Few Good Men they are divided into the Alpha, Bravo and Sigma Companies. While some of the performances are outstanding, the acting results are mixed: some of the timing is off and it appears that a little more rehearsal is warranted. The cast of the Bravo company features some excellent actors: Marlon Sanders as Lt. Col. Nathan Jessep and Ethan McDowell as Lt. Jonathan James Kendrick gave flawless performances. These two were utterly convincing in their respective roles, exuding power, authority and a soldier’s bravura.

Ryan Neal gave an uneven performance as the cocky young lawyer, Lt. JG Daniel Kaffee: he was brilliant during some scenes (and seems to have a gift for comedy), but in one key scene he unfortunately blanked on his lines. The weakest spot in the cast was Melinda MacKay as Lt. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway. While her performance was competent, she is unconvincing in this pivotal role, in part due to her diminutive stature and soft voice.

Even with an uneven cast, A Few Good Men deserves to be reintroduced as a stage play. RATMO has put in a lot of hard work on this production – and it shows. Staying true to founder Kenne Guillory’s unofficial motto “Go big or go home,” this resourceful production brings new perspective to a timeless drama by meeting the demands of a challenging space.

photos by Laura Hill

A Few Good Men

Rise Above Theatre Movement at the Venue Sky Lounge in North Hollywood (Los Angeles Theater)
scheduled to end on April 8 EXTENDED Through April 22, 2012
for tickets, visit http://www.riseabovetheatre.com/


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