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A Few Good Men

"Code Red" is one of those military actions not listed in any of the official Marine manuals. The "few good men" use it as a disciplinary action against a fellow inmate who isn't following their rigid rules of decorum and intent. It usually involves shaving the victim's hair but can sometimes go further, as in the case of Pfc. William Santiago: His torturers tie his hands and shove a rag down his throat before beginning the shave, but Santiago, never in good health, begins bleeding from the mouth and quickly dies. The two Marines involved call the medics and are rapidly arrested for murder. This is the background for Aaron Sorkin's interesting examination of their inexperienced legal defense team, who sort out the events and intents and uncover the horrid truth behind it. This was a powerful piece in its Broadway debut, with Tom Hulce as Lt. j.g. Daniel Kaffee. It is almost as powerful in this Los Angeles premiere, with a mostly exceptional cast and tight, insightful direction by David Blanchard, who knows the right opposing rhythms to bring it to life. The problems are with the two central figures, Kaffee, whose father was known and respected in his legal career, and Lt. Cmdr. Joanne Galloway, who weasels her way into the defense team. The two characters' conflicting methods and ideals should vibrate with a good amount of passion, but Joel Berti as Kaffee and Angela Pupello as Galloway don't come close to that. Berti is likeable in a television-sized performance, and he seems to have merely watched the film for reference. He is a held-back Kaffee, with none of the subtext that might bring him strength, such as the character's underlying angst at operating in his father's memory, with a barely hidden fear of failure. Pupello's Galloway is similarly shallow and is also several degrees too sharp and cold to be convincing. The supporting cast fares much better, with stellar performances by Jason Harris as Kaffee's aide; James Henriksen as the ill-fated captain, who provides the clue that wins the case; and particularly Dick DeCoit as the vicious heavy who heartily believes his way is right but who ultimately crumbles. Special note should be made of Blanchard's bible-spouting Lt. Kendrick, whose stupidity is appalling, and Matt Laroux as the clear-eyed and simple-minded young Marine devotee, whose bland approach to Marine life is perfectly capture

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