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Raising 'Caine'

short picture description
Citizen of the Caine: Capt. Queeg (Patrick Egan), beleaguered commander of the "U.S.S. Caine," is sworn in by Lt. Challee (John McCluggage) in "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial."

Photo by Pat Kirk

San José Rep distills the moral dilemmas of 'Caine Mutiny Court-Martial'

By Anne Gelhaus

SINCE COURTROOM dramas don't feature much opportunity for visual flash, the success of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, more than most plays, hinges entirely on the dialogue and its delivery. Luckily, Herman Wouk kept this stricture in mind when he adapted his Pulitzer Prize­winning novel for the stage, and for its production, San José Repertory Theatre has put together a top-notch ensemble that does justice to Wouk's famous story.

Unlike the novel (and the movie adaptation with Humphrey Bogart), Wouk's script skips the shipboard action sequences and focuses solely on their outcome: the trial of Lt. Stephen Maryk (Donald Sage Mackay), a WWII Navy officer charged with mutiny after he relieved Lt. Com. Queeg (Patrick Egan) of command of the U.S.S. Caine, believing that the unstable Queeg was endangering the ship by sending it into a typhoon. Mindful that most audiences already know what the verdict will be, director Frank Dwyer has the Rep cast concentrate on the myriad moral dilemmas the characters face during the course of the trial.

The man with the heaviest weight on his shoulders is Maryk's attorney, Lt. Barney Greenwald (Jonathan Haugen). As badly as he wants to win the case, Greenwald knows he'll have to compromise his integrity and trample on some proud naval traditions to do so. Throughout Haugen's performance, his character remains aware of what he's sacrificing to meet his ends, and this awareness seeps through in small but telling ways, such as his slight hesitancy during cross-examination before he moves in for the kill. Haugen is especially effective in the last scene, when Greenwald reveals why his role in the trial has so greatly upset him.

Egan's Queeg is not as adept at keeping his inner turmoil below the surface. Egan's portrayal of a man who crumbles under pressure is fascinating--his hands jitter, his eyes dart and he talks incessantly and rapidly--but he never establishes his character's authority, making it hard to understand why Queeg was ever given a command in the first place.

The actors playing witnesses all give solid performances, particularly Al Blair and Jack Davis as two of the psychiatrists who judged Queeg sane after the incident aboard the Caine. Both men provide much-needed comic relief: Blair's Dr. Lundeen as a windbag who gets the air knocked out of him; Davis as a doctor who would do well to seek some treatment himself.

D. Martyn's set design features what looks like a torpedo hole in the back wall, and the resulting cracks in the building's hull serve as a wonderful metaphor for the story: the courtroom as a sinking ship.

The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial plays Tuesday­Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 4:30 and 8:30pm, and Sunday at 2 and 7pm through Nov. 3 at the Montgomery Theater, San Carlos and Market streets, San Jose. Tickets are $16.50­$28.50. (408/291-2255)

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From the October 17-23, 1996 issue of Metro

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