BWW Review: 12 ANGRY MEN Brilliantly Staged by Torrance Theatre Company
Originally produced as a live teleplay in 1954,"12 Angry Men" by Reginald Rose is a contemporary classic about a young man on trial for allegedly murdering his father. Although it seems to be an open-and-shut case, there is but one lone juror among the twelve who is not convinced of the defendant's guilt. Through this juror's careful examination of the evidence, he demonstrates to the rest of the jury that there just may be the possibility that this young man is innocent and causes the other jurors to question their preconceived notions. This play's enthralling and controversial debate over this young man's fate will keep you on the edge of your seat in anticipation of its final resolution.
The play opens as twelve jurors retire to the jury room, having been admonished that the defendant in the murder in the first degree case is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt - and they must reach a unanimous verdict. The jury room door is locked and the decision process begins. Eleven of the jurors vote for conviction, each for reasons of his own. The sole holdout is Juror #8 (the extraordinary Reed Arnold), who has his doubts about the case and casts the only not guilty vote. As Juror #8 persuades the weary jurors to re-examine the evidence, we learn the back-story of each man. Kudos to Shields' brilliant casting of 12 superbly talented actors, each of whom thoroughly brought the individual characters to life.
Juror #3 (Scot Renfro) is a bullying self-made man who has estranged himself from his own son. Juror #7 (Michael Debartolo) hopes the guilty verdict will be immediate so he can make it to a Yankees game. Juror #11 (Bob Baumsten) is foreign-born and values his right to disagree in America. Juror #5 (Matthew-David Smith) is a product of "the streets" just like the defendant, giving him insight to the crime which the others lack. Juror #12 (Jack Messenger), an advertising man, doesn't understand anything that he can't package and market. Juror #10 (David McGee) bases his guilty verdict on the fact that "those" people are no good, violent drunks. Nerdy accountant-type Juror #2 (Jeremy Krasovich), constantly seeks order in his physical environment to deal with his internal confusion.
Juror #4 (Ryan Shapiro) is an advocate of dispassionate deductive reasoning and ultimately becomes the voice of reason in the jury room. Jury Foreman (Ron Gould) attempts to keep order as Juror #6 (Frank Pepito) is anxious not to make waves and "go with the flow." And Juror #9 (Leon Cohen) the elder statesman of the jury, does his best to deal with the heat as well as the stupidity that surfaces and almost derails the unanimous verdict. The excruciatingly hot day drags into an even hotter night; still, Juror #8 chips away at the guilty verdict, insisting that his fellow jurors bear in mind the words "reasonable doubt" means a not guilty verdict should be reached.
There is a moment in the play when Juror #3 demonstrates with a switchblade knife exactly how the victim must have been stabbed. As he raised the knife, not only did every member of the jury rise in horror, I heard many gasps in the audience. It was easy to imagine that animosity between the two characters could lead Juror #3 to actually want to kill hold-out Juror #8. But when you say "I want to kill you," do you ever really mean to carry out the deed or is it just an emotional reaction to anger? This and many other questions make "12 Angry Men" a riveting piece of theater.
12 ANGRY MEN
Torrance Theatre Company - 1316 Cabrillo - Torrance, CA 90501
Runs March 1st - March 30th
Fridays & Saturdays @ 8p / Sundays @ 2p
Thursday, March 28th at 8p (followed by a special Q&A with the cast)
Tickets $25 - Call or text reservations to (424) 243-6882
Photos by Brad LaVerne II
Jurors 2 (Jeremy Krasovich) and 4 (Ryan Shapiro) confer at the water cooler
Juror 3 (Scot Renfro) confronts his demons
Juror 6 (Frank Pepito)
Juror 8 (Reed Arnold) has his doubts about the murder.
Juror #10 (David McGee) lets his prejudice get in the way.
Jurors 3 (Scot Renfro), 4 (Ryan Shapiro) and 5 (Matthew-David Smith)
Juror 7 (Michael Debartolo) wants to get to the Yankees game
Jurors 4 (Ryan Shapiro) and 7 (Michael Debartolo) demonstrate how the murder could have happened.