12 Angry Jurors

Cast of 12 Angry Jurors. Photo by Tracy-Lynn Chernaske

12 Angry Jurors

12 Angry Jurors
Based on Twelve Angry Men TV film and play by Reginald Rose
and adapted by Sherman L Sergel
Directed by Sean Anthony
Standing Room Only Theatre
Studio 700, CBC
Oct 26 - 29 and Nov 1-4, 2016

Vancouver, BC: Twelve Angry Men was first conceived by Reginald Rose in 1954 as a play for television, later adapted for the stage, and then in 1957 made into a film, ranked by the American Film Institute in 2008 as the second best courtroom drama ever made (The number one selection was To Kill a Mocking Bird!). It has been adapted and staged in different formats countless times since - as Twelve Angry Women with an all female cast, and Twelve Angry Jurors - with men and women on the jury panel.

Set on a hot humid day, the drama unfolds in the crowded steamy room in which a jury has been sequestered to decide the outcome of a murder trial. A boy has been accused of murdering his father,  and a guilty verdict will result in a mandatory death sentence. The jury must decide beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty, and the decision for guilt or innocence must be unanimous. As the jurors crowd into the room it is clear that the majority are convinced of his guilt, and the weary jurors hope for a quick decision so they can go home and get on with their lives. The first vote is taken... and all but one juror vote guilty. Juror 8 is the sole holdout but without a unanimous vote the deliberations must go on. As the arguments go on, it becomes apparent how bias, prejudice and inability to assess the validity of the evidence presented means that peer pressure is probably more potent in rendering a verdict than the rational careful weighing of the facts presented.

There is an innate uneveness to the play itself in that some of the characters are more fully developed than others. Much as I would think, in reality some people would dominate deliberations more than others. But this uneveness spilled over soomewhat to the performances of the ensemble.  I thought that Mandana Namazi as Juror 11 and Brett Willis as Juror 8 did a specially good job although I did not understand why Willis was directed to look to the left away from the foreman, Juror 1, whenever he seemed to be addressing him.

Overall it is a fascinating play - watching how decision making evolves within a group.

The blackbox setting of Studio 700  worked  well for staging this play. Since all the action occurs in the jury room, the set requirements are simple - a row of chairs and tables where the jurors sit in order, 1 to 12 and a chalk board.

The proceeds of the performances are going to SRO's charity partner, KidStart, a mentoring program for challenged children 6 year and older. A cause worthy of support.