BWW Review: 12 ANGRY JURORS at Toro Theatre Company
In the current political climate, it is important to find a voice through art. In this superb production of 12 Angry Jurors by Reginald Rose, the young cast navigates the reality of racism, crime, and reasonable doubt with wisdom beyond their years. Each cast member brings a unique authority to their character and the action is thrilling to watch.
The voice over that introduces the story provides the perfect backdrop for the tension that exists in the room. The set, by Dori Brown, is simple, yet effective: 12 chairs that will be filled by ordinary citizens who will decide the fate of a 16 year old boy. As the jurors file into the room, it is clear they come from different backgrounds and that the trial has taken a toll on them. There is a literal and figurative storm brewing, which adds to the stale atmosphere. As the jurors mill about and discuss the stifling heat, the Forman finally initiates the vote.
With an 11 to 1 vote in favor of guilty, it falls to Juror #8 to explain why he feels there is reasonable doubt that the boy murdered his father. As the case unravels, so do each of the jurors. The women in this cast are magnificent. Juror #2, played by Bailey Goljan, seems demure, but does not hesitate to stand up for what is right. Goljan has a commanding presence and is easy to believe. Juror #5, played by Jordan Suarez, is furtive, but resolute. Her face says much of what she is feeling until her character works up the courage to say it. Anna Holt plays Juror #6, who is not afraid to stand up to the men in the room. For a play set in 1957, this symbolizes the struggle women have to be heard and taken seriously. Holt does not shy away from this responsibility. Grace Ortiz plays Juror #9, the "old" woman. Ortiz presents a formidable character who lends support early on for Juror #8 and she never falters. Juror #11 believes in democracy and due process despite not being born in the United States. Aline Ayadi delivers some of the best lines of the show with a splendid French accent which adds to the allure of her character. Ayadi knows how to deliver a zinger with grace and poise. Which brings us to Juror #10. Aubrey Zink was given a herculean task and she delivers. It cannot be easy to present a character such as this, but Zink does not shy away from the ignorance, prejudice, and animosity her character feels toward "them". Juror #10 is not likeable, but Zink plays her with tenacity and should be praised for presenting her honestly.
Turning to the men in the cast, the Forman, played by Bryson Glover, manages to keep things in order, despite losing his temper. Glover presents an unassuming and reasonable man who perseveres despite the weight of his responsibility. Juror #3 is the hardest to convince of the reasonable doubt and most of the conflict surrounds his character. Carson Robles presents a man who is plagued by his relationship with his wayward son which clouds his judgement. Robles expertly showcases the emotions of the character and leaves the audience breathless as he crumbles under his guilt. As Juror #4, Joseph Fuller brings sophistication to the group. His character is well educated and unbiased. He demands respect from his fellow jurors and earns it from the audience in one of the most electric moments of the play. As Juror #7, who believes he has a better things to do, Harrison Graham provides much of the humor to break up the drama of the play. Graham has excellent comedic timing, but he also manages the sober aspects with ease. Juror #12, played by Zach Layton, brought tranquility and humor to the proceedings that was necessary. Ben Emerick plays Juror #8 with confidence, without a hint of arrogance. He calmly presents his questions and concerns and remains unruffled despite the changing attitudes in the room. Emerick uses the space well and does not get swallowed by the action happening around him.
The direction, by Jere Van Patten, is brilliant. He has allowed the actors to shine as individuals and as a diverse group. As the audience watches the action unfold, one cannot help but think how they would handle to situation and if they would stand up for what is right. There are several moments where the audience is left breathless, waiting for the next revelation. 12 Angry Jurors is thrilling from beginning to end and is not to be missed.
Photo Credit: Stacy Ortiz