Mt. Hebron’s fall play “A Few Good Men,” directed by Math teacher Mr. Tom Sankey, premiered on Nov. 3 and continued on Nov. 4, 5, 10, 11, and 12.
The first play Mt. Hebron has done after three consecutive fall musicals, “A Few Good Men” centers around LTJG Daniel Kaffee, played by senior Kevin Nolan. Kaffee is a Navy defense lawyer who takes on the case of Lance Corporal Harold Dawson and PFC Louden Downey, played by senior Jimmy Nolan and sophomore Max Nzone, respectively. The two men are charged with the murder of their comrade PFC William Santiago, played by sophomore Jake Scarbath.
Kaffee, along with Lieutenant Commander Joanne Galloway, played by senior Alyssa Tschirgi, and LTJG.Sam Weinberg, played by senior Sam Bishop, work to uncover possible corruption in the marine ranks on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. As they work their way up the chain of command, they focus mainly on Lt. Colonel Nathan Jessup, played by senior Ilan Pluznik, Lt. Jonathan Kendrick, played by sophomore Nick Brogan and junior Nick Jackson, and Captain Matthew A. Markinson, played by juniors Daniel Niezelski and Zach Willhelm, and their possible involvement in Santiago’s death.
The main themes of the play call the public to scrutinize and discuss possible problems within the military, such as hazing and following commands, even when illegal or immoral. It was interesting to see how Mr. Sankey directed this serious piece of work and addressed these issues.
The most noticeable difference from previous shows was the seating arrangement. Instead of the audience being seated in the auditorium seats, there were risers with chairs directly on the stage for the audience. This gave the play a more intimate feeling and allowed for actors to connect with the audience more easily.
One audience member said that the seating “makes you feel like you’re the jury in the courtroom,” and this was utilized in scenes when Prosecutor Lieutenant Jack Ross, played by Rory Nolan, directly addressed the audience throughout the trial.
The props and backdrops were very minimal; however, all of the actors did a fantastic job in conveying changes in setting and time throughout the entirety of the play, and the lighting helped the audience understand these changes as well which was essential as the story jumped between Washington D.C. and Cuba. The costumes looked very official and accurate to real military dress which allowed the audience to immerse themselves in the plot and setting.
As for the actors themselves, each one portrayed their characters perfectly. Nolan, Bishop, and Tschirgi all did a great job in creating and building upon the interesting and quirky dynamic between their characters, which was another large focus of the show.
Tschirgi was sassy, ambitious, and determined to find the truth when playing Galloway, and she truly brought the character to life on stage. Her character’s struggle with being a woman in the military and her fight to be taken seriously was a large theme in the play as well, and Tschirgi’s adaption and portrayal was extremely well done.
“[It was my] first play, so it’s a lot more about how you’re reacting to other people and dealing with the audience being so close. [I] prepared by really studying the script,” Tschirgi said.
The characters of Kaffee and Weinberg were also entertaining. Nolan’s and Bishop’s humor during many of the scenes with their characters was always on point. The audience got a great sense of who their characters were, yet they were still able to see the layers and personalities beneath the humor.
Nolan agreed with the fact that the change in seating had a large impact on his preparation.
“Normally the audience sits in the auditorium, so it was kind of weird having that close interaction,” he said. “It’s a challenge, but it’s also interesting. I watched the movie a bunch of times, and just spending my time with my script and going over lines was the main thing [I did to prepare].”
Nolan is referring to the the 1992 film adaption of “A Few Good Men,” starring Tom Cruise, which is what helped spring the story into popular culture.
Anyone in the audience could tell you that Pluznik stole the show in his portrayal of Lt. Colonel Nathan Jessup. He could flip from being pleasant to screaming in someone’s face at the turn of a hat.
One of the show’s highlights is Jessup’s exchange with Kaffee in the courtroom. Pluznik not only showed versatility in his acting abilities, but he was also extremely dedicated to giving Jessup’s character justice, specifically the famous line, ‘You can’t handle the truth!’
“I sat in a dark room for a long time in front of a mirror and just did [the line] repeatedly over and over again. And I, of course, looked at the Jack Nicholson interpretation as well,” said Pluznik.
Kendrick and Markinson, who were under Jessup’s command, brought the corruption in the military to light.
“This was my first show ever, and we practiced a lot. [There were] a lot of long days, a lot of work with Mr. Sankey and a lot of work with Daniel [Niezelski], the other guy who plays Markinson. We spent a lot of time looking at ourselves in the mirror,” Willhelm said.
“Everyone’s super supportive of each other, and Sankey’s an amazing director. He really taught us how to do things. Like I said, this was my first performance, and he made me feel like I’d been doing it my whole life,” Willhelm continued.
Overall, this new style of theater worked extremely well for the Mt. Hebron students in the show and all who watched it thanks to Mr. Sankey and costume and prop assistant Mrs. Kathy Bondura.