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Brainerd Community Theatre presents 'A Few Good Men'

Aaron Sorkin’s first play, “A Few Good Men,” comes to the Dryden Theatre stage when Brainerd Community Theatre presents the military drama in May. Cast includes Jesse Brutscher (left), Kevin Yeager, Scott Lucas, Nicholas Kory and Maren Goff. Photo by John Erickson of Art Matters Studio and Gallery.

Aaron Sorkin's first play, "A Few Good Men," comes to the Dryden Theatre stage when Brainerd

Community Theatre presents the military drama beginning May 2.

Performances will be 7:30 p.m. May 2-3 and May 7-9 and a 2 p.m. matinee May 4.

Sorkin won an Emmy Award for his television series "The West Wing," and garnered an Academy Award for his screenplay for the film "The Social Network." His plays have also won tremendous critical acclaim; besides "A Few Good Men," his most recent stage script for "To Kill a Mockingbird" is currently playing on Broadway to rave reviews.

"A Few Good Men" is based on actual events that took place at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the summer of 1986. Sorkin's sister was a member of the Judge Advocate General's Corps and recalled to him a hazing incident that severely injured a Marine. The case was brought to trial, and seven of the 10 perpetrators of the hazing were given less than honorable discharges. The other three refused to accept a plea bargain and went to trial, where they were acquitted of aggravated battery charges, but guilty of the misdemeanor charge of simple assault. They were sentenced to time served and returned to duty. Sorkin wrote his play on cocktail napkins while working as a bartender at a Broadway theater.

The film rights were soon purchased and the iconic film with Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore was produced.

Director Patrick Spradlin noted several differences between the play and the actual case, and the play and the film.

"To begin with, the crime in the play is murder, as the attacked soldier has died before the

play begins," Spradlin stated in a news release. "So, the stakes for the defendants are much higher. The way the case is resolved in the play was originally written one way, but changed for the film on the request of its director, Rob Reiner. It's that resolution that takes place in our production, since Sorkin re-wrote his play after the film was released."

Spradlin also spoke of the themes of the play.

"Some have seen this play and film as a kind of attack on the military establishment. It most certainly is not," he stated. "What you have is a very complex case of duty to the corps, duty to carry out orders, and a possibility that that might conflict with duty to one's own principles. It's a timeless, almost classic, story that has its telling in other plays and films."

Pfc. William Santiago has been accosted in his Guantanamo barracks by two other Marines as payback for Santiago's lax soldiering. In the course of the hazing, Santiago dies. The two Marines, Dawson and Downey, are brought up on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and conduct unbecoming of a Marine. Their case is given to Lt. J.G. Daniel Kaffee, a lower grade officer in the JAG corps with a reputation for settling all of his cases via plea bargain. When the defendants refuse to accept a plea, Kaffee is faced with a thorny, multi-faceted case that could cost his clients their freedom and could also cost him his commission.

"This is very much a courtroom drama," Spradlin stated, "although it's also a murder mystery as well. And it's a treatise on what constitutes honor, duty, loyalty and adherence to a code of conduct."

The iconic line from both the play and the film, "You can't handle the truth," is uttered by Col. Jessep, the commanding officer of the Marine unit at Guantanamo.

"This single line is what the vast majority of people know about the play and the film," Spradlin stated. "Before it's said, though, there's a lot more that transpires. Sorkin writes terrific dialogue, and he tells a story that's tight, taut and well-oiled. Thankfully, I have a tremendous cast to bring this story to the stage."

Nicholas Kory plays Lt. Kaffee. Kory was last seen on the Brainerd Community Theatre stage as John Merrick in the fall production of "The Elephant Man." He's joined by Kevin Yeager, who played Dr. Treves in the same production, in the role of prosecutor Jack Ross. The role of Col. Jessep is portrayed by Scott Lucas, most recently seen as Scrooge in Stage North's "A Christmas Carol." Mitchell Dallman, a CLC graduate who just received his bachelor's in fine arts in acting from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, returns to the stage as Sam Weinberg, second chair for the defense. Maren Goff portrayed Gretchen the German flight attendant in this season's "Boeing, Boeing," and portrays Joanne Galloway, a Navy attorney who finds she must prod Kaffee toward a fitting defense for the two charged men.

Jesse Brutscher portrays zealous Lt. Kendrick; Mike Paulus is Marine physician Walter Stone; M.S. Bernard is trial judge Col. Randolph; Eddie Binda plays Cpl. Howard; Capt. Whittaker is played by Travis Chaput; Dan Maertens has the role of Capt. Markinson. The two defendants are portrayed by Alex Erickson and Nolan Reynolds. Pfc Santiago, the victim of the crime, is played by Connor Nichols. Various soldiers, lawyers and military police are played by Rachael Kline, Luke O'Reilly, Archie Jacobs and Delaney Larson.

The setting is designed by Brainerd Community Theatre Technical Director George Marsolek. Heidi Eckwall is doing the lighting; Ben Kent is on sound; and costuming is by Rachael Kline and Lorri Jager, who also serves as production stage manager. Photography for the production comes from John Erickson of Art Matters Studio and Gallery.

Tickets are available from the CLC Theatre Box Office at 218-855-8199 or online at www.clcperformingarts.com.

The play is sponsored by the Central Lakes College Videography Department. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Five Wings Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. The entire CLC Performing Arts Center season is made possible in part by an operating grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

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