November 9 - December 9, 1998, NiteOwl Productions at the Tamarind Theatre presented
THE CAINE MUTINY COURT MARTIAL.
Herman Wouk's novel "The Caine Mutiny" was an exciting, extremely dramatic
story; Herman Wouk's play "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial" is not. This dusty
old play fails to find fresh life under Harry Mastrogeorge's lugubrious direction, which
makes it a very long sit.
The eponymous court-martial is a hearing on a charge of mutiny brought by a
young lieutenant, Steve Maryk (Steve Monarque), who relieved his captain of command of a
Navy ship during a typhoon. Maryk's claim is that Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg
(James Morrison) lost control of the ship and was incapable of making rational decisions
-- that he had, in fact, become increasingly erratic in his behavior during the months of
his command leading up to the event in question. The task of Maryk's lawyer, Lt. Barney
Greenwald (Scott Burkholder), is to convince the court that Queeg's behavior justified
Maryk's course as First Officer in taking command of the Caine.
The staging, by virtue of its nature as a courtroom drama, is necessarily static, but here
it is especially uninvolving. While it seems entirely authentic as to costuming and set
decoration (Rich Reams) and the playing out of courtroom procedures, at fault are a couple
of major casting errors that work against the drama. Burkholder, while a fine actor, is
utterly miscast as Greenwald, the intense Jewish lawyer who chooses to defend Maryk. An
effort may have been made to subvert any racial stereotyping, but the essential nature of
the role, which becomes key in the last scene of the play, demands truer casting. The play
was written in less P.C. times, but deracination doesn't hold open the door to
Monarque, as the young officer on trial, has the appearance the role demands, but never
comes across as bright enough, or brave enough, or spirited enough to make such a grave
decision. Likewise, John Stevenson as Lt. Thomas Keefer doesn't convince as a writer with
an agenda that involves using the younger First Officer as a pawn in his fiction-to-truth
But the play comes alive when Morrison is onstage. As the unraveling Queeg, he is
mesmerizing, almost painful to watch, a desperate man attempting to maintain dignity and
authority in the face of damning evidence and a spirit shocked by too many missions. Marty
Brinton scores major points in a realistic portrayal of head of the tribunal, Captain
Blakely, an officer's officer, in whom you can see the disappointment and fatigue as Queeg
is swallowed in his own ethical maze. Brixton Karnes is a suitably unlikable prosecutor,
Judge Advocate John Challee. Dirk Blocker, Frayne Rosanoff, Stan Kirsch, Tony Becker,
Craig Thompson, and Rich Morris fit easily into smaller roles, with Jed Robert Rhein
nicely presenting the only moment of humor as Signalman Junius Urban.
Synopsized from a review by Madeleine Shaner for Drama-Logue.