Two United States Marines are accused of murder, but their military lawyers uncover a conspiracy that goes much higher than their clients in the play “A Few Good Men.”
Originally a play written by Aaron Sorkin that opened on Broadway in 1989, and later turned into a feature film starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore, Surf City Theater’s production opens Saturday, Sept. 16, at the 2nd Story Theater in Hermosa Beach.
“It’s so much crisper and better written for the stage ... and the fact we got such talent for it is beautiful,” said Surf City founder and executive producer Lisa Leonard.
Drew Rogers plays Lt. Daniel Kaffee, played by Cruise in the film, a “legacy lawyer” whose father was a renowned attorney before he died.
“He’s lived his life in the shadows of his father," Rogers said of the character. "He has chosen to rebel against that call of duty if you will. At the start of this play he’s coasting through life. He’s plea bargained as many cases as he can, trying to get them off his desk. He really doesn’t have to guts to stand up and make the hard argument.”
Redondo Beach resident Marquel Skinner plays Lt. Commander JoAnne Galloway, played by Moore in the film, who resents Kaffee’s willingness to plea bargain.
“I think one word to describe her is passionate,” Skinner said. “She is out to bring justice to the story.”
El Segundo’s Cazimir Milostan tackles the “unconventional” Col. Nathan Jessup, played famously by Nicholson.
“He feels whatever call that he makes, the orders that he gives are justified and 100 percent in the right,” Milostan said.
Redondo Beach’s Steve Izant plays prosecutor Jack Ross.
“I want to do the right thing,” Izant said. “I see a lot of things wrong, but I always try to find the best way to do it. So in my case, I want to see justice done, but I’m also very much into procedure.”
“A Few Good Men” ran for nearly 500 performances on Broadway, but it wasn’t until the film, directed by Rob Reiner, with screenplay by Sorkin, that the story reached a mass audience. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Jack Nicholson who uttered the famous line “You can’t handle the truth!”
“It’s tough to get his voice, his mannerisms out of your head, he’s such an iconic actor,” said Milostan. “But how I’m approaching this is trying to put my own stamp on it, trying to really take each line by line and make it my own, get behind the material in my own way, put my own thoughts, beliefs and philosophies, life, what not, into the character.”
Rogers also faced the same issue.
“I have his (Cruise) voice in my head and its taken some work to break away from that and figure out for myself what these lines mean and how I want to deliver them,” Rogers said.
The entire cast though has the challenge of Sorkin’s dialogue, known for its sharp language. They were told not to watch the film, even though they had all seen it, but study Sorkin's “The West Wing.”
“You not only have to get the words right, you have to get the commas right, you have to verbally speak a comma,” Izant said.
The nonprofit Surf City was launched in 2012 and Leonard and her crew put on four productions each year, mostly comedies. Rogers, Skinner, Milostan and Izant are all first-timers with Surf City
“They are so passionate about this company and keeping it alive and getting the community involved ... living in the South Bay and finding out about this group of great people was really cool,” Skinner said. “I hope to do more with them eventually.”
“A Few Good Men” opens Sept. 16, but the show is already sold out. Other performances take place Sept. 17, 22, 23, 34, 29, 30 and Oct. 1. Show times are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Leonard said they will be collecting donations for the Salvation Army's Hurricane Relief Fund during the entire run of the show.
For more information, visit surfcitytheatre.com.