by Dick Kerekes
Currently on Gainesville’s Hippodrome Theatre stage until March 21, is John Patrick Shanley’s Defiance. The Hipp is located in downtown Gainesville at 23 SE 2nd Place. Call (352) 375-HIPP or visit their website at thehipp.org.
If you were one of the fortunate theatre fans who happened to see John Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play Doubt, you will, no doubt, want to see his latest play “Defiance.” It is, in my opinion even better than “Doubt. It was produced locally by Players by the Sea, JU and at the Hippodrome.
Defiance takes place at a Marine base in Camp LeJeune North Carolina. Lt. Col. Morgan Littlefield is excellent portrayed by David Sitler, who was Dr. Farquhar in Mind Games at the Hipp. He is the gung ho base commander who wants to find the reason for the racial tension on the base and to put a stop to it. He hopes to accomplish this by promoting to his assistant, a high ranking black officer, Captain King. But King wants to remain colorless, just a soldier, and not to be used to help the Lt. Colonel gain a promotion to full bird colonel. King is played by Ryan George who is making his professional debut with this role. King is fabulous, and really looks like a rough, tough well-conditioned Marine. When he takes off his shirt to work out in the gym, I could not help notice he is cut with sharply defined muscles and six pack abs.
Morgan also asks Chaplin White to confer on this problem. White, played by Matthew Lindsay, is a terrific actor who has done a number of shows at the Hipp, the last being Dead Man’s Cell just a couple of months ago. A Southern style preacher, White immediately does not hit it off with either Morgan or King because they are admitted atheists.
I don’t want to get into the plot too far so as not to spoil your viewing of this play. An enlisted man’s wife is sexually involved with an officer and this is a big issue in moving the story to a surprise ending. Others in the cast include Aaron Ganas as Gunney Sergeant, and Jason Weiss as PFC Davis. Carolyn Popp is the final character, portraying the Lt. Colonel’s wife Margaret.
This play is 80 minutes long with several scenes that are changed with a black out. Kent Barrett’s scenic design is remarkable, as pieces of furniture are quickly moved to create new locations from the Morgan home, to a gym, and the headquarters office.
The costumes by Marilyn Wall are right on the mark. The Marine dress uniforms, with razor sharp pleats and shoes so well shined that they blind you. Mrs. Littlefield has three clothing changes in the course of this show wearing dresses reflecting a commanding officers wife.
Shanley wrote Doubt and Defiance from his past experiences from being in a Catholic school and having served in the Marines. He does not waste words and writes in a style that captures your complete attention and interest and has just enough humor in Defiance to balance the seriousness of the topic.
As I have written in previous reviews, seeing a play at the Hippodrome is like living it, the space is so intimate. This play is about the military but knowledge of or any military back ground is not necessary. Want to see superb acting and direction (by Mary Hausch), take a trip to Gainesville and enjoy Broadway quality plays just one and one half hours south of Jacksonville. If you liked Doubt, then you will love Defiance.
DEFIANCE theatre review
by Dick Kerekes