Regional Reviews: New Jersey
A Rousing Twelve Angry Men
Also see Wayman Wong's interview with Christopher Charles Wood of Damn Yankees
At one point after meeting mostly hostile resistance to his doubts as to the proof of the defendant's guilt, Juror Eight allows that, if he remains the only holdout in a second vote, he will switch his vote to guilty. Just a blip in this high minded, craftily constructed play. However, as the jurors examine the testimony and evidence, we learn much about the character, points of view and life experiences of each one, and see how these inform the approach of each to the defendant, the process and the verdict.
During the Golden Age of Television, Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose, one of the outstanding young writers of the era, was commissioned by the fabled Studio One which produced it live in 1954. The highly esteemed, expanded movie version written by Rose was released in 1957. The earliest stage version I have been able to find reference to opened in London's West End in 1964. It was not until fifty years after its initial television production that Twelve Angry Men finally came to Broadway, with Roundabout Theatre Company's remarkably successful 2004 production that ran for 328 performances.
An outstanding cast largely comprised of many of today's finest stage actors has been assembled by director David Saint. Greg Edelman portrays holdout Juror Eight with restraint, dignity and understated steel. Troubled by the shoddy, indifferent defense offered by the accused's attorney, Eight insists on a close analysis of the prosecutor's case.
Terry Layman as the elderly, sincere Juror Nine elicits considerable sympathy by effortlessly projecting Nine's gentleness and physical weakness as he stands up to bullying as the second juror to vote "not guilty." Layman played this role during the Broadway run and the road tour of the Roundabout production.
Intractably refusing to consider or concede any evidence are Jurors Ten and Three, played to the hilt by David Schramm and James Rebhorn, respectively. Schramm's fangs-bared interpretation of the bigoted and bullying Ten gives audiences the love-to-hate lightning rod which most animates its literally joyous response to this production. Rebhorn's bitter Three is strongly hissable as an angry parent transferring his hatred of his son onto the defendant. Ultimately, Rebhorn garners some sympathy by showing us the hurt behind his hate.
All of the jurors are written with sufficient detail to allow their superior interpreters to differentiate themselves and hold our interest: Jonathan Hadary (Eleven) is most admirably likeable as an immigrant from Middle Europe who values American justice; Scott Drummond (Two) is strong as the analytically driven stockbroker; Lee Sellars (Six) brings out the determination of this working class painter to bring his intellect to making his decision; David Adkins (Four), John Bolger (Twelve), Jim Bracchitta (One), Jonathan C. Kaplan Seven), and Michael Sirow (Five) bring vivid detail and verisimilitude to their roles.
Resistance is as futile as it is unnecessary. Director David Saint and his top notch cast have brought us a rip-roaring, robust, fast-paced and forceful production with each juror and issue presented in bold relief. The George Street audience literally chortles in delight at various moments throughout the 100-minute running time as they applaud, gasp and laugh as the bigots among the jurors are unmasked and humiliated, and the good guys emerge triumphant. It is unlikely that any previous production of
Twelve Angry Menhas aroused its audience as much as this one does. Forget those highly publicized Broadway standing ovations for Blood Brothers. Even theatergoers who bemoan ubiquitous rote and manipulated standing ovations felt a thrilling rush from the instantaneousness and vocalized enthusiasm with which the opening night audience rose to its feet as the lights began to dim on this production's final scene.
Twelve Angry Men continues performances (Evenings: Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm /Sunday (excluding 4/8) 7 pm/ Matinees: Thursday (excluding 4/29), Saturday and Sunday 2 pm) through April 8, 2012, at the George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, N.J. 08901; Box Office: 732-246-7717; Online: www.GSPonline.org.
Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose; directed by David Saint