Theater & Dance
"A Few Good Men"

By: Aaron Sorkin
Produced by: Hillbarn Theatre
Directed by: Josh Marx
Featuring: Tom Gorrebeeck, Colonel Christopher C. Starling, USMC (Ret.), Brad Satterwhite, Noah Boger, Erin Ashe, Gary Giurbino, Nicole Martin, John Girot, Zach Padlo, Gary Pugh Neuman, Drew Reitz, Lauren Hayes, Mohamed Ismail and Andy Rothschild
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; October 13 to October 23, 2016
Where: Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale Boulevard, Foster City, California
Tickets: $45-$48. Call 650-349-6411, extension 2, or visit

Christopher C. Starling
Mark & Tracy Photography / Hillbarn Theatre
Christopher C. Starling, USMC (Ret.) as Lt. Col. Nathan Jessep in "A Few Good Men," playing October 13 to October 23, 2016, at Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City.
Several excellent actors
bring 'A Few Good Men' to life
Fine production has a lamentably short run
at Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City
October 21, 2016

"You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!" booms Lt. Colonel Jessep in Aaron Sorkin’s timeless military court drama.

In Hillbarn Theatre’s production, the Colonel is played by Christopher C. Starling. I thought, "That guy was made to play the Colonel." Turns out Starling has an inside track, because until two years ago he actually was a colonel. In the Marines. After 26 years in the military, he should know a thing or two about protocol.

Jessep’s character has some edges to it which Starling nuanced, as he attempts to manipulate the system to cover up a crime. Starling has a good second career ahead of him, swapping the theater of war for the theater of, err, well, the theater.

As has been said, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs — the end justifies the means. But in a democracy no-one is above the law, especially the military. When Lieutenant Commander Joanne Galloway of Internal Affairs (played by Erin Yvette) finds out about the death of a serviceman at Guantanamo Bay, she smells a rat. She asks to be assigned to defend the two accused Marines but instead is told to merely support Navy lawyer Lieutenant Junior Grade Daniel Kaffee (Thomas Gorrebeeck).

Kaffee’s last case was defending a serviceman who was found smoking two ounces of oregano — "possession of a condiment." She is not impressed, and this merely adds to her feeling that someone wants something covered up, and quickly. Gollaway is a terrier who won’t let go, and Yvette puts a lot of energy into the role, always straining at the leash.

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Gorrebeeck’s Kaffee in his dress blues looks as dapper as Fred Astaire and appears to know — or care — as much about the law. He is trying to escape from the shadow of his illustrious lawyer father but can’t quite seem to summon the energy. So even he is surprised to be chosen to defend a pair of Marines in a murder case.

Kaffee’s transformation from bored young lawyer to a man with a conscience who discovers the truth and is determined to set it free is a core theme of the play. Gorrebeeck takes the role by the scruff of the neck as he sloughs off the ennui of a disaffected young lawyer, and changes into a mature legal eagle with a mission to expose the hypocrisy of "The Code" — the Marines’ unwritten rule book. "Unit, Corps, God, country" is the order of their loyalty, and he gradually peels back the layers of uniform and protocol to reveal a rotten core.

I have never seen the set at Hillbarn look so large and expansive. Carlos Aceves has used the whole space, and with just the movement of a few chairs and tables, he transforms the set from offices and cells on the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, to a courtroom and various locations in Washington, D.C.

Gorrebeeck, Starling, Yvette, and in fact the whole company show a level of acting well above their rank or pay grade. This is a story with important parallels in today’s messy political climate. It deserves to run past the election.

Email Tony Lacy-Thompson at

Satterwhite, Gorrebeeck
Mark & Tracy Photography / Hillbarn Theatre
Brad Satterwhite as Lance Cpl. Harold W. Dawson, left, and Tom Gorrebeeck as Lt. j.g. Daniel Kaffee in "A Few Good Men," playing October 13 to October 23, 2016, at Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City.