Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Twelve Angry Men
Ford's Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

The Cast
Photo by Scott Suchman
With a powerful cast, Twelve Angry Men holds the stage at Ford's Theatre in Washington. Director Sheldon Epps has set Reginald Rose's play, originally written for television in 1954 and filmed in 1957, in a non-specific present time, but one thing keeps it from feeling truly of the minute: the absence of cell phones. (Adding a line about the jurors having to give their phones to the bailiff before entering the jury room could have helped.)

When the play is set in its original time period, the 12 jurors determining the fate of a teenage boy accused of murder are all white men; Epps has shuffled the deck by making the jury pool racially diverse and equally balanced, six white men and six African Americans—although it's still all male. The main point of contention remains the fact that the 16-year-old defendant is poor and a member of an unidentified non-white ethnic group, leading the jurors to judgmental comments and slurs about people they consider less than human.

The way Epps' casting works out, African Americans appear in the more sympathetic roles while the most objectionable characters are played by white actors. Erik King is Juror Number 8 (played by Henry Fonda in the movie), the one man determined not to condemn a young man to prison or death without taking a thorough look at the evidence: outwardly calm, internally roiling. Bueka Uwemedimo is the naturalized citizen who believes in the promise of America (he speaks with an African accent; originally the character was Eastern European); Bru Ajueyitsi, the young man who takes issue with the idea that good people can't come from "bad" neighborhoods; and Craig Wallace, the weary voice of reason.

On the other side, Michael Russotto, burly and aggrieved, dominates his scenes as combative Juror Number 3, who comes into the jury room convinced that the boy is guilty and not wanting to argue about it. Elan Zafir, a blue-collar businessman, spits out an angry rant about "those people" that sounds frighteningly contemporary. Christopher Bloch is a stockbroker who views life through his lens of privilege and business, while Lawrence Redmond just wants to get to his baseball game, and Brandon McCoy hides his defensiveness behind the veneer of a whiz-kid advertising executive.

Instead of placing the actors in a realistic setting, Stephanie Kerley Schwartz has created a scenic design with understated grandeur. The walls are utilitarian gray, but tall and column-like between screened windows; the table is softly triangular with no sharp corners, surrounded by enough space for the actors to pace, speak out, and struggle with each other.

Ford's Theatre
Twelve Angry Men
January 18th - February 17th, 2019
By Reginald Rose
First Juror/Foreman: Eric Hissom
Second Juror: Sean-Maurice Lynch
Third Juror: Michael Russotto
Fourth Juror: Christopher Bloch
Fifth Juror: Bru Ajueyitsi
Sixth Juror: Jason B. McIntosh
Seventh Juror: Lawrence Redmond
Eighth Juror: Erik King
Ninth Juror: Craig Wallace
Tenth Juror: Elan Zafir
Eleventh Juror: Bueka Uwemedimo
Twelfth Juror: Brandon McCoy
Bailiff: Paz López
Directed by Sheldon Epps
511 Tenth St., NW
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-347-4833 or