The last time Whidbey Playhouse Community Theater produced “A Few Good Men,” the World Trade Center loomed over New York City, the word “Gitmo” wasn’t in the lexicon and the removal of shoes, belts, coats and dignity were not a requirement of boarding a commercial airliner.
And finding old military uniforms wasn’t a problem in 1995.
“That was a challenge for us this time,” said director Kevin Wm. Meyer. “The last time this play was put on, used uniforms could be found. But that was before 9/11.”
Indeed, the world’s changed a lot in 22 years. But the basic tenet of the play, written by Aaron Sorkin in the late 1980s and released as an acclaimed film in 1992, still resonates.
The military drama tells the story of two Marines accused of killing a fellow Marine at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. The simmering personality clash between Naval officers of the Judge Advocate General Corps defending them and the coda of duty and obeying orders are explored during testimony.
To honor Oak Harbor’s military personnel, Whidbey Playhouse is offering a free performance of “A Few Good Men” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday for active and retired military. The production is slated to run until June 25.
Dustin Amundson stars as Lt. j.g. Daniel Kaffee, the easy-going, fast-talking attorney played by Tom Cruise in the film. Tara Hizon plays the stiff and steadfast investigator and attorney Lt. Commander Joanne Galloway, known as Jo, portrayed by Demi Moore in the movie.
Jim Reynolds takes on Jack Nicholson’s memorable bellowing role as base commander Col. Nathan R. Jessup. Budding actors Judah Tirado and Daniel Gibson play the roles of the two accused Marines; Tirado as Lance Cpl. Harold Dawson and Gibson as Pvt. Louden Downey.
Starring in roles associated with Hollywood’s biggest stars combined with putting on a play about the military in a military town does add a bit more pressure, the actors admitted.
But Hizon’s been waiting for the role almost a lifetime.
“I was in high school 22 years ago when the play was put on last time,” said Hizon, now a member of Oak Harbor City Council and employee with Island County Human Services. “I helped back stage. I’ve been wanting to play the role of ‘Jo’ ever since then.”
Hizon pointed out another change since 1995.
“We cut out all the (bad) language back then,” she laughed. “But not now.”
Gender changes were also made to accommodate Moriah Sittner, 18, who takes on the role Kevin Bacon portrayed in the film as Capt. Jack Ross. She plays Lt. Jacqueline Ross, instead.
“I auditioned for the role of Jo, but, of course, Tara is definitely Jo,” Sittner said. “So they changed a lead role for me.”
Alec McDougall, a retired Mount Vernon High School teacher, is making his Whidbey Playhouse debut.
“I play Capt. Whitaker. It’s a real juicy part,” he said.
Active in community theater in Anacortes and Mount Vernon, McDougall said it’s a first for him to wear a military uniform, assume the role of a military commander or perform in a military town.
“Yes, it’s a little nerve-racking,” he laughed.