The play that is being reviewed is entitled “Twelve Angry Men”. The playwright is Reginald Rose. This play was adapted by Sherman L. Sergel. Michele Nevin directed the play and was assisted by Stephen C. Kelly. The Colonial Playhouse is the location where this is currently being perofrmed.
Summary of the play:
It was a hot summer day in 1957 when twelve jurors would have to decide the fate of a person on trial for murder. They gathered into the small hot jury room with very little air to vote on the outcome of the trial. Eleven men voted guilty while one lone juror did not because he still had some doubt. Once that happened the air was not the only thing in the room that was heated any longer, tempers started to flare but the lone juror stood his ground. The lone juror not only had to convince them that there was reasonable doubt in the case but he also had to help them overcome their prejudices. Despite fist fights almost breaking out, he won over jury members one at a time until they were dead locked at six voteseach. They almost decided to tell the judge that they were a hung jury so that they could go home but their consciences got to them. They decided to reenact the murder and then reenact how each of the two witnesses came about seeing some part of what happened in order to determine their credibility. Upon reviewing the reenactments and the evidence they determane the fate of the man on trial.
The set of the play was accurate for its time period. The jury room was setup with a long wooden table that seated twelve people downstage center. Two jurors were on each end of the table with eight jurors facing the audience. The chairs were old and acceptable for the time period. Located downstage right was an old water cooler and a trashcan. The walls had old stained wall paper that was dreary in color. There was an old rusty radiator by a wooden framed window to the left side of the stage. It appeared that they used some type of paper on the outside of the glass of the window to make it look like it was getting dim outside since it was the late afternoon. Located upstage center, there was an old wooden door to allow entrance and exit to the twelve jurors and the guard. Above the door was an American Eagle. To the right of the door there was a picture of the President of the United States at that time who was Dwight D. Eisenhower and to the left of the door was a picture of the Vice President at that time Richard Nixon.
The costumes worn by the actors were mostly believable. The guard was dressed appropriately with black dress pants, black dress shoes, and a white collared shirt that had a badge on it. Seven of the actors wore suits that were in style during the 1950’s time period. Three actors wore dress pants, dress shirts, ties, and dress shoes which were also appropriate for the time. One actor however wore a sweater from our time period which is in style now and would not have been in existence during the 1950’s. The last actor wore a very nice collared shirt that would be fitting for today but not in existence during the time period of the play. With the exception of two actors who had shirts that were too modern, all of the actors in the play were dressed just as you would imagine a jury being dressed in the 1950’s.
The blocking was appropriate for the play. Having the table close to the audience allowed the actors plenty of room to maneuver without upstaging other actors or having their backs turned towards the audience. The use of levels in combination with the lighting dimmed over everyone except for two actors enable the focus to be thrown upon just them. This allowed the two actors to have a private conversation in a crowded room. There was the lone juror who upstaged the other actors twice during the play by standing downstage center facing away from the audience while speaking at length to the other actors. My first belief was that this was inappropriate but after rethinking how they used levels and lighting superbly the director must have done this for some purpose unknown to me.
The best performance:
Juror Number Three played by Lou Wheeler, gave the most believable performance in the play. His ranges of emotions were amazing. When he was angry and argued his voice was stern and loud while his face turned a bright red as if his blood pressure was skyrocketing. He did not back down or show weakness during confrontations. Throughout the play he was able to show his discomfort in the hot room with very little air that they were stuck in by constantly using a handkerchief to wipe his forehead. He was strong in his convictions and when the situation called for it he was immediately able to transform himself from an irritated angry man to someone who was embarrassed, sad, and so emotional that he began to cry real tears.
The overall play was excellent. It was hard to believe that they were able to capture and maintain the attention of the audience throughout the play using such a simple set, ordinary characters, and only a few props compared to a movie where they spend millions of dollars to capture the attention of an audience. The reason for their success was the dedication that was put into the development of each character. The audience not only watched a play but they also learned about most of the jurors which many of them were able to connect with on a personal level because of how real to life they all seemed. With such a wide range of characters it was likely that most people in the audience were similar to at least one of the characters either in their background or their convictions. This is a play that I highly recommend for others to see both for the entertainment value and additionally for the learning experience of how an excellent play is put together.