It’s been almost a decade since Erika Strasburg appeared on the stage of Bristol Riverside Theatre in 2013’s The Pirates of Penzance. Therefore, it’s with excitement that she’s returning on Thursday as the leading (and only) lady in Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men, the final installment of BRT’s 2021-22 mainstage season.
“It feels like a home theater,” said Strasburg, who also performed in BRT’s 2011 production of Gypsy. “I grew up in Doylestown, so it’ll be nice to have my family and friends come see me do something. I’m looking forward to that.”
In A Few Good Men, Strasburg portrays Lieutenant Commander Joanne Galloway, a defense lawyer who’s alone in her belief that two teenage Marines on trial for murder are innocent. As the sole female in a sea of military men, Joanne desperately tries to prove her abilities and the truth of what really happened.
“Every single man she meets in the show pushes back against her, challenges her, demeans her or undermines her. She’s just fighting the whole show and is tough as nails. She cares deeply about the Marines. She really believes that they are not guilty and is the only one, really from the beginning, advocating for them,” said Strasburg. “She’s the only one who’s interested in defending them. She kicks and screams the whole way and I love it.”
To prepare for the role, Strasburg met with real-life military women to learn about their experiences. Many shared stories reminiscent of Joanne’s that were chock-full of trials and tribulations.
Though Joanne has her work cut out for her against her male peers, the actress behind the character has nothing but love for her co-stars.
“It’s just me and the guys, but it’s lovely in that I feel so well taken care of by these guys. They really lift me up and I really do feel so safe and comfortable with them. It’s probably one of the safest spaces in America to be the only woman in the room,” said Strasburg. “But I also feel a responsibility to represent this story. Our show takes place in the ‘80s. It was a different time 30 years ago. To be a woman in the military was not easy.”
The 15-actor cast of A Few Good Men also includes Sean Davis as Lieutenant Junior Grade Daniel A. Kaffee; Bobby Underwood as Lieutenant Junior Grade Sam Weinberg; Richard B. Watson as Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Jessep; and James Lee and Maddox Morfit-Tighe as accused Marines Lance Corporal Harold Dawson and Private First Class Louden Downey.
“Every character is really strong and the show has a great story as it explores some of the intricacies of the military system,” said Strasburg, who praised the work of Sorkin, the brains behind The West Wing and The Newsroom. “His language is very quick, so our show is very fast-paced. It all culminates in the trial scene, with Act II being entirely in the courtroom. It’s exciting because court is theater. Even people who have seen the movie will be in for a fun surprise because it’s so different seeing it live. You can really feel the tension in the courtroom.”
For fans of the 1992 Academy Award-nominated film of the same name, Strasburg promised they can expect key moments to be included on stage, especially Jack Nicholson’s famous line, “You can’t handle the truth.” Still, she and the rest of the cast bring their own flair to the roles made famous by A-list talent.
“I’m sure some people will come in looking for Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore, but the three of us that are playing those characters who are pretty iconic in the movie, we’ve done a good job at nodding toward those performances but also making them our own, which is really exciting and why you want to see theater. It’s a new interpretation. But we definitely give homage to the movie so that fans of the classic A Few Good Men will appreciate what we’ve done.”
When it came time to select a show to close out the season, director Ken Kaissar felt A Few Good Men was a good choice because of its relatability to society’s current state of division.
“We’re doing this play right now to remind our audiences that, as Americans, we should agree more than we disagree. The issues currently tearing up our country are minor compared to the beliefs and virtues that keep us together. I’m hoping this play will have something of a healing quality,” said Kaissar. “We can’t seem to agree on anything these days and that really saddens me. This play is about values that I think all Americans should share, like truth, justice, service to the country, defense.”
Strasburg echoed Kaissar’s sentiment and hopes A Few Good Men serves as an example of how polarized sides can come together.
“Obviously, with everything going on, it has been such a divided time. Our show is trying to explore the truth and humanity of everyone, where we can come together and fight for the same cause or agree on the same cause,” she said. “The courtroom, there’s two strong sides to it and we’re just trying to find the truth. It’s a very powerful play.”
Opening night for A Few Good Men is Thursday, May 5. The show runs through May 22. Tickets start at $43, with discounts available for military and students. A limited number of $10 tickets are available for Bristol Township residents courtesy of Flager & Associates, PC. Audience members must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or Antigen) taken within 48 hours of the performance start time. Masks are optional. Visit brtstage.org, call 215-785-0100 or stop by the box office at 120 Radcliffe St. in Bristol for tickets and more information.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com