Also see John's review of Cane
The play begins after closing arguments have been presented in a homicide case, and the judge is giving his instructions to the jury. The case involves a young man accused of murdering his own father. The jury is further instructed that a guilty verdict will be accompanied by a mandatory death sentence. The twelve men move to the jury room, where they must unanimously decide on a verdict of "guilty" or "not guilty". In their first poll, all but one juror votes "guilty." As a hung jury would result in a mistrial, the twelve men are forced to examine their preconceptions and prejudices as they reconsider what comprises "reasonable doubt." Several of the jurors have different reasons for discriminating against the witness based on his race, his background, and the troubled relationship between father and son. The men represent many aspects of society: immigrant and native New Yorker, blue collar and white collar, old and young, Christian and Jewish, the tough and the mild-mannered. They naturally relate to the situation and each other in different ways based on their life experiences, but they must come together in the end to delivery one final verdict.
There is one set where all the action takes place. It is a cross section of the jury room and the bathroom. The clothing, decor and language fit the 1954 period in which the play is set. The director has provided a solid ensemble piece requiring great attention to focus and pacing. It is wonderful to see the assorted physical mannerisms with which characters have been painted. James Clarke as Juror #3 and John Sterling Arnold as Juror #11 shine in particularly good performances. Patrick Clear is a bit bland as Juror #8, the man who is at first the lone dissenter, but he surrounded by strong actors. The actors deftly know when and how to shade their performances by reacting to each other, even when neither is speaking. This is not an easy task on stage as there is not a camera to zoom in or pan to the person whose reaction the audience is supposed to follow. The cast also seems to find what few moments of dry humor that exist to relieve the tension. Intelligently written and acted, this Maltz production of Twelve Angry Men has all the conflict and passion of the film.
Playwright and screenwriter Reginald Rose was born in Manhattan in 1920. In addition to Twelve Angry Men (1954), his other plays include The Porcelain Year (1950), Black Monday (1962), Dear Friends (1968) and This Agony, This Triumph (1972). He was widely known for his work in the early years of television drama, and went on to make four movies with British producer Euan Lloyd: The Wild Geese, The Sea Wolves, Who Dares Wins and Wild Geese II.
Twelve Angry Men will be appearing at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through November 14, 2010. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is a 550-seat, nonprofit, community-based Equity regional theatre belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, and the Florida Professional Theatre Association. This theatre employees both local and non-local Equity and non-union cast and crew members. The theatre is located at 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, FL. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561/ 575-3332 or 800/ 445-1666, and online at www.jupitertheatre.org.
*Designates member of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
**Designates member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, an independent national labor union.
***Designates member of the United Scenic Artists, a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople.