This is a superb production of a play that still has a resonant truth behind it - which you can not only handle, but will relish.
—Joff Schmidt, CBC theatre reviewer
Most of us know A Few Good Men via the 1992 film version - and more specifically, that one line spoken (okay, shouted) by Jack Nicholson about truth, and Tom Cruise's ability to handle it.
But before any of that, it was a 1989 stage play written by Aaron Sorkin, now famous as the writer behind TV dramas like The West Wing and The Newsroom, and the Oscar-winning film The Social Network.
And the good news is, that stage play holds up remarkably well in the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's sterling production (co-produced with Edmonton's Citadel Theatre, where A Few Good Men opened last month).
Like the film, the stage version is part courtroom procedural, part meditation on the tradeoffs we make in balancing truth and freedom against security. Though written during the tail end of the Cold War, this is still a timely theme.
Three military lawyers are called on to defend a pair of U.S. Marines stationed at Guantanamo Bay, accused of killing a fellow Marine during a "code red" - essentially, a military hazing. What they uncover as they face off against the base commander, Col. Nathan Jessep (Paul Essiembre), goes much deeper than simply unravelling a murder mystery.
Many of Sorkin's hallmarks are here - a fascination with powerful men and their world; snappy, sharp-witted dialogue; and unabashedly intellectual discourse.
Director James MacDonald's production serves all of this admirably. Although the weighty play has a running time of just under three hours (with intermission), and the second act does have the familiar feel of a standard courtroom drama at points, MacDonald and his impressive cast move the show along at a fantastic clip, never letting boredom set in. His creative staging helps - MTC's revolving stage is used not only to make quick scene changes, but also to mimic Sorkin's trademark "walk and talk" style.