Jury Still Out on 'Twelve Angry Men'

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Twelve Angry Men

By Reginald Rose

Directed by Scott Ellis, Set Design by Allen Moyer, Costume Design by Michael Krass, Lighting Design by Paul Palazzo, Sound Design by Brian Ronan, Original Compositions by John Gromada

Cast (in order of appearance)
Guard, Patrick New
Juror One, George Wendt
Juror Two, Todd Cerveris
Juror Three, Randle Mell
Juror Four, Jeffrey Hayenga
Juror Five, Jim Saltouros
Juror Six, Charles Borland
Juror Seven, Mark Morettini
Juror Eight, Richard Thomas
Juror Nine, Alan Mandell
Juror Ten, Julian Gamble
Juror Eleven, David Lively
Juror Twelve, T. Scott Cunningham
Voice of the Judge, Robert Prosky

Performances: Through November 19 at the Colonial Theatre
Ticket Information: Through Ticketmaster at (617)-931-2787, online at www.broadwayacrossamerica.com, or at the Colonial Theatre Box Office (

106 Boylston Street

Legal thrillers have always been my guiltiest pleasure. In a book, on the big and small screens, and in the theatre, I simply cannot get enough of the gripping suspense, the slowly unraveling mystery, and the final twist of an ending. Which is why I was certain I would love Twelve Angry Men. A solid cast, an award-winning director, and an arguably intense story based on an internationally acclaimed film-how could it go wrong?

Well, it didn't really go wrong, per se, but it didn't really go right, either. In short, it was simply a good production that still left me a little disappointed.

The story is as bare bones as its jury room setting. Originally a teleplay that was subsequently adapted for the silver screen and later the stage, Twelve Angry Men takes us directly into the world of jury deliberation. Twelve strangers are set to decide the fate of a young delinquent accused of the manslaughter of his abusive father. It seems like an open and shut case, but one juror-Juror Eight, to be exact-believes there is enough reasonable doubt to acquit, much to the frustration of his colleagues. As the story unfolds, so do the details of the crime and the biases of the jurors, and by its close, we learn that nothing is really what it seems.

As a social commentary on human nature, Twelve Angry Men points out exactly how little our attitudes have changed since its 1954 setting. Inner turmoil, class tension, and social bias all play a significant part in the jury's final decision, making Juror Eight's reasonable doubt theory all the more difficult to prove. In the end, the jury's finAl Verdict isn't nearly as interesting as the discourse that leads them there, and the questions the show raises in our own minds about truth, prejudice, and our own legal system stay there long after the curtain falls.

As expected, the acting in this production is close to flawless. The twelve jurors have a particularly energetic chemistry, and while Richard Thomas and George Wendt might get top billing-and not undeserved, I might add, as both their roles are brilliantly executed, and Thomas carries much of the play-the ensemble work in this production is phenomenal. Randle Mell, the tortured father and Juror Three, and David Lively, the German-born Juror Eleven, in particular give standout performances in their respective roles.

As much as I enjoyed the production, though, I felt the entire time like something was missing. Maybe it's simply the awkwardness of the staging; I imagine director Scott Ellis did what he could with the simple set and no intermission, but the stage just feels crowded, and at times it seems the actors are delivering lines on top of one another. Perhaps it's the uber-cheesy detective music that opens and closes the show. It's even possible I just expected more from the Roundabout Theatre Company, which has produced some of my more recent Broadway favorites. Either way, Twelve Angry Men is just missing the spark that's needed to transcend the boundary between good theatre and great theatre.

Don't get me wrong-I enjoyed the show as much as the next legal junkie, and would recommend it to any regular theatre-goer looking for a show to pass the time. But if you're among those who attend the theatre on a more infrequent basis, I'd pass up this production of Twelve Angry Men and take a chance on a show that isn't quite so run-of-the-mill.  

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From This Author Olena Ripnick

Olena Ripnick is a Boston University journalism student and freelance writer whose introduction to the performing arts took place when she was cast as Gretel (read more...)