This powerful production of a play that is forever timeless creates a moving, theatrical experience that should not be missed.
Twelve male jurors of varying age and socio-economic origins are locked in a room and charged with the task of determining whether a young man will live or die. Each must face his own prejudices, opinions and belief in the American “system” and way of life as one man challenges them all to dare to question and think for themselves.
The actors in this production are perfectly cast from the foreman who is a high-school football coach to Juror Number 12, an advertising agent. The overall look, age and diversity in the cast strikes just the right chord of authenticity.
Joe Vincent as the “Middle-European” Juror Number 11 and Frederick Stone, Juror Number 9 who plays an older gentleman, are perfect in their parts and both natural actors who make the audience forget either man is acting at all.
These actors create believable, authentic characters who, in their calm and compassionate natures, easily open to asking questions, are the perfect counterbalance to Jurors Number 3, played by Max Robinson, and Number 10, played by Roderick Peeples.
Robinson and Peeples are festival favorites for good reason. Both actors are seasoned, experienced artists who craft strong, blustering roles filled with anger, bigotry and deep heartache. Both have the look of a silver-screened character actor, and in both manner and speech are wonderfully memorable and authentic in their parts.
In the middle of these characters is Juror Number 8, played masterfully by Martin Kildare who won audiences over last year in the iconic role of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Juror 8 dares to question and admit openly, he doesn’t know if the boy whose fate is in their hands is innocent or guilty. He has questions about the trial and the ease with which everyone involved, including the boy’s attorney and the jury itself, is willing to send the boy to his death.
Juror Number 8 merely beseeches his fellow jurors to talk about the case when they would vote and condemn the boy to death inside of minutes. Through this discussion the other jurors draw on their own experiences and in asking questions, come to new conclusions.
The climax of the play is an intense, angry monologue by Juror Number 10, executed almost too perfectly by Peeples.
The hate-filled, racist rant is so visceral, gut wrenching and completely and totally believable for a moment the audience forgets he is an actor reciting lines. The delivery of the speech was beautiful in its ugly realism and slimy prejudice and had the audience applauding when, finally, another juror forced him to stop.
The play cleverly alludes to many pervasive and denigrating ailments of society that still plague America today, making it timeless.
The only real villain in this play is the pernicious persistence of absolute certainty accompanied with little propensity toward free thought. The hero of the play is the simple and daring act of admitting one does not know and the ability to question and think, even when the pillars in the “system” have failed to do so.
In the end it is, ironically, the many small bits of diversity and their experiences among the characters, from growing up in the slums, to the understanding of a lonely old man to one who wears spectacles, that although make the group volatile and reactionary, also bring each juror, one by one, to admit there are too many questions and cast a vote of not guilty.
It is the commonality in the humanity of each and the desire to ultimately do the right thing that makes the “system” and jury a success, and in this production the cast and direction allow the play to be as potentially great and profound as the material would allow, which in this case, is significant.
“Twelve Angry Men” is running for the summer season at the Utah Shakespeare Festival along with “Peter and the Starcatcher,” “King John,” “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” “The Tempest,” and “Anything Goes.” More information is available at www.bard.org.