A FEW GOOD Men,'' which was seen in Washington before it went to New York where it ran for a year or so, is a brilliantly staged, totally absorbing comedy-drama whose faults you may choose to overlook.
The play, which opened last evening at the Mechanic, seems much funnier than it did when it tried out at the Kennedy Center more than two years ago. Apparently, some of the dialogue has been honed. If so, it is all to the better.
''A Few Good Men'' is reminiscent of ''A Soldier's Story.'' You might say it is the white (and black) version of that play and movie.
Like ''A Soldier's Story,'' ''A Few Good Men'' has its faults. It was difficult to believe, in ''A Soldier's Story,'' that any man who would cause an innocent man to be sent to the stockade would care that much if the prisoner committed suicide.
Life in the stockade, particularly during World War II, was said to be living suicide, and the villain's remorse, in the play, was dramatically unconvincing.
''A Few Good Men'' has the same kind of failing. Written by Aaron Sorkin when he was 28 years old, the script wants us to believe that a Navy attorney, assigned to defend two Marines accused of murdering another Marine, will be able to trick the man who is really responsible for the crime into telling the truth on the stand.
The guilty man, from the beginning, is lying. Why expect him to fall back on his honor?
The play has another failing, the ending. The sentencing, at close, irritates more than it satisfies, but the production is otherwise so interesting, so theatrically intense (it moves like a film), we are inclined to overlook all this and go with the crowd. And the crowd, in this instance, liked the play.
The cast at the Mechanic is every bit as good as the actors who did these same roles at the Kennedy. Michael O'Keefe (''The Great Santini'') is engagingly flip as the defending attorney, Alyson Reed (Cassie in the movie version of ''A Chorus Line'), is pert and bright as the attorney from internal affairs, Michael Countryman is a wry Sam Weinberg, another defense attorney, and Paul Winfield gets his laughs as the judge presiding at the court martial.
There is a lot of humor in the play, and while this may bother those who think this too serious a theme to lace with laughter, it all works, beginning to end. It's the ending that leaves you a little less than satisfied.
In the play, two young, brainwashed Marines are accused of causing the death of a third Marine, a young man who didn't want to be stationed at Guantanamo Bay and did all he could to be transferred to another base.
Keith Diamond and David Van Pelt play the two men accused of the crime, and Scott Sowers is the base commander who insists he did not give the orders to haze the dead man. They, like all the others in this production, are superb.
Don Scardino, who directed the original production, has directed this one. He, too, deserves commendation.
''A Few Good Men'' will remain at the Mechanic through Feb. 9. It was and is electrifying theater.
'A Few Good Men' is
very good comedy-drama
''A Few Good Men'' *** Two Marines, based at Guantanamo Bay, are accused of having caused the death of another Marine they were hazing.
CAST: Michael O'Keefe, Paul Winfield, Alyson Reed, Scott Sowers, Michael Countryman, Jordan Lage
DIRECTOR: Don Scardino
L RUNNING TIME: Two hours and 50 minutes with one intermission
! TICKETS: 625-4230