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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Twelve Angry Men
American Century Theater

The Cast
After 20 years of rediscovering neglected 20th-century American plays, American Century Theater in Arlington, Virginia, is ending its run with an intense and dead-on production of the first play it presented: Twelve Angry Men.

Reginald Rose's famous play and movie (originally written for television) of 12 jurors arguing over the guilt or innocence of a teenage boy accused of murder is as classic and concentrated an examination of theater as one could want: a diverse group of strangers thrust together in a constricted space, interacting in real time, with no intermission. Director Jack Marshall has assembled a dynamic company of actors working together as an ensemble as the audience watches from all sides of Michael deBlois' jury room set.

On "the hottest day of the year" in 1956, the members of a New York City jury gather to determine the fate of a poor teenager charged with killing his father. At first, the decision seems clear-cut: of course he did it, the evidence proves it, and the jury members can get home in time for dinner. Then Juror 8 (Steve Lebens) announces that he isn't prepared to condemn a person to death without taking another look at the witnesses, the testimony, and whether the prosecution succeeded in proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Tempers heat up, jurors form and break alliances, and characters who look like archetypes at the beginning gain human dimensions.

Lebens shows great integrity as a soft-spoken man standing up for a principle, but just about everyone has his moments, especially Joe Cronin as Juror 4, a condescending stockbroker with platitudes about how the world works; Michael Replogle as Juror 3, belligerent and easily offended; Evan Crump as Juror 5, defensive because he grew up in poverty like the defendant; David Jourdan as Juror 10, bigoted and "sick and tired of facts"; and Brian Crane as Juror 11, an immigrant who still believes in the promise of America.

Costume designer Rip Claassen grounds the drama in a time when men wore suits and ties, vests and hats, even during a blistering New York City summer. Marc Allan Wright's lighting design and Ed Moser's sound design help keep the tension high and never allow the audience's focus to waver.

American Century Theater filled a niche in the Washington theater community for two decades. It will be missed.

American Century Theater
Twelve Angry Men
July 17th - August 8th
By Reginald Rose
Jury Foreman: Craig Miller
Juror 2: Steve Ferry
Juror 3: Michael Replogle
Juror 4: Joe Cronin
Juror 5: Evan Crump
Juror 6: Michael Sherman
Juror 7: Bruce Alan Rauscher
Juror 8: Steve Lebens
Juror 9: Lyle Blake Smythers
Juror 10: David Jourdan
Juror 11: Brian Crane
Juror 12: John Tweel
Guard: Ellen Dempsey
Directed by Jack Marshall
Gunston Theatre II, 2700 S. Lang St.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information:

Photo: Johannes Markus

-- Susan Berlin

Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.

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