“You can’t handle the truth,” shouted by Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men,” is one of the iconic lines in film history.
Nicolson’s character, Col. Jessup, is a career Marine and commander at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, where a young Private has been beaten to death.
In a memorable scene, Jessup lashes out while being grilled by a Navy lawyer (Tom Cruise) during the court-martial of two Marines who killed the private that Jessup considered a slacker because the young man didn’t fit in and was trying to get a transfer.
This tense courtroom drama opens tonight for a three-week run at the Stageworks Theatre on 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.
Aaron Sorkin’s play was a Broadway hit that ran for 500 performances before he adapted it for a 1992 movie that became an Oscar-nominated film starring Cruise, Nicholson and Demi Moore.
After the success of the film, Sorkin tweaked the original, and that version is opening tonight at the Stageworks. Director Karla Hartley says she looked at the original 1989 version and found it clunky. “The second incarnation is better, and that’s what we went with,” she says.
“There are iconic lines that people expect to hear, but our cast is not hampered by those expectations,” she says. “Our actors make it their own without homage to the film,” says Hartley, who also directed “The Wiz,” the current musical-in-the-park for American Stage in St. Petersburg.
Local actor Dennis Duggan plays Lt. Col. Jessup; Corenlio Aruilaero is Navy lawyer Kaffee; and Joanna Sycz plays a naval investigator and lawyer Lt. Cmdr. JoAnne Galloway.
Robert Richards and Nick Hoop portray Lance Cpl. Dawson and Pfc. Downey, the two Marines on trial. Galloway suspects that they carried out a “code red” order, a violent punishment for which Jessup might be responsible.
Also in the cast are Edward Gomez, Owen Robertson, RJ Pavel, Tim Guirrerri, Ryan Bernier, Tom Costello, Michael McGreevy, Brandon Shea, Harold Oehler, Peter Hughes, Brandon Zimmerman, and Thomas Morgan.
Hartley says one of the challenges in staging the play was that the script has numerous locales. “The story jumps from place to place (from Washington, D.C. to Guantanamo) and we’re doing it on a spare set, basically three tables and nine chairs,” she says. “And the costumes are not full military style. But that’s not as important as the words and actors.”