12 ANGRY JURORSBy Reginald Rose
Lakeside Community Theatre
Director – Juan M. Perez
Assistant Director/Stage Manager – Cody Schultz
Lighting, Set, and Sound Design – Juan M. Perez
Costume Design – Juan M. Perez and Cast
Foreman of the Jury – Aaron Schultz
Juror No. Two – Tammy Langlitz
Juror No. Three – Rickey Crenshaw
Juror No. Four – Melissa Wallis
Juror No. Five – Krysten Hahn
Juror No. Six – Sarah Lovelady
Juror No. Seven – Benjamin Keegan Arnold
Juror No. Eight – Troy Reich
Juror No. Nine – Paul Keyes
Juror No. Ten – Paul Niles
Juror No. Eleven – Christina Neal
Juror No. Twelve – Shane Morgan
Guard – Cody Schultz
Judge – Matt McClearin
Clerk – David J. Wallis
Reviewed Performance: 4/19/2014
Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The action centers on the 12 jurors of a trial involving a young man accused of stabbing his father to death. The initial vote indicates that only one juror believes the young man is not guilty, and the play proceeds through three acts depicting the interactions and arguments between the jurors as they attempt to reach a unanimous verdict.
The original script called for an all-male cast, as would be appropriate for a play set in 1948. At that time, only white men were allowed on juries until the civil rights movements of the 1960s. The last group of people allowed on juries was women, finally receiving the right in 1975.
Because of civil rights and awareness of gender issues, the play has undergone a transformation on many stages. Sometimes being renamed 12 Angry Women, the action can include an all-female jury. Lakeside Community Theatre’s production is called 12 Angry Jurors because the jury is composed of a mix of men and women.
Lakeside chose to maintain the 1948 time period, although they had cast the jury with both men and women. For the most part, the dialogue in the script does not dictate a time period of any kind; it is easy to change any references to sports teams or current events. The choice of sticking with the period was only slightly distracting, both because of the composition of the jury and the use of plastic cups in the jury room. Plastic cups were invented in the 1960s, so that the use of paper cups would have been more appropriate to the period.
The small theater had been transformed into a jury deliberation room with a long, wooden table and twelve perfectly matched wooden chairs. There was also a small bench and table in one corner with water and plastic cups. The theater was set up in-the-round, with the audience cleverly deposited behind short wooden railings. The theater ushers called the seating “jury boxes”. The set, designed by Director Juan M. Perez, was perfectly arranged, and with the audience seating, created an intimate setting in which I felt a part of the jury ready to deliver my verdict as the action ensued.
Lighting and sound was also designed by Juan M. Perez. There were few lighting changes, but those that occurred were suitable to the action in the play. The sound consisted solely of a recorded voiceover representing the judge’s instructions to the jury prior to them entering the jury room for deliberation.
Costume design was a group effort. The playbill lists “Juan M. Perez and Cast” for this responsibility. The clothes were suggestive of the period, although everything that was worn would also be available today. The women wore small hats and hairstyles of the period, along with tailored dresses. The men wore suits of varying styles, depending upon each character’s occupation.
The intimacy of the small theater highlighted every move, every intonation, and every emotion portrayed by the actors. It also accentuated the moments when actors searched for their lines or delivered them as being read rather than naturally, as if for the first time. The characters are listed as juror numbers, rather than names, so there had to be distinct characteristics to make their performances memorable.
The first who made an impression was Christina Neal in the role of Juror Eleven. She is the one member of the jury who is not American-born, coming from Europe. Neal used a light accent consistently throughout the play, reminiscent of a Russian dialect. Her consistency added credibility to her character.
Neal’s performance highlighted one of the problematic features with the play’s staging. All the actors remained seated at the table for most of the play, only standing up and walking around when it was their turn to deliver a short monologue, or else all of the jurors stood up to wander around the room, fill their cups, or stare out the window. Neal never put down the small purse she carried, even when she did walk around the room, which was usually to fill her water. Other characters never removed their suit jackets or hats, which also seemed odd in a room where there was no air conditioning and the dialogue indicated several times that the room was very hot.
Shane Morgan’s performance as Juror Twelve was somewhat opposite from the emotion of the play. At times his facial expressions and body language indicated amusement with the proceedings, but his distant personality never quite convinced me that he was in advertising, as he was fond of pointing out. As with several of the cast members, Morgan’s performance tended toward waiting for his turn to speak.
Foreman of the Jury was played by Aaron Schultz. Schultz was believable as the level-headed man tasked with keeping the deliberations going and to reel everyone back to task when emotions ran high.
The characters with the most to say were more memorable. Rickey Crenshaw, in the role of Juror Three, revealed strong emotion in his face as he stomped around the room and yelled at the other jurors. Crenshaw’s red face and angry expression was believable in those times that his character was most agitated. However, several times his anger seemed to come out of nowhere; there was no buildup to support the sudden outbursts.
This tendency to go from determined but calm conversation to sudden outbursts of anger was not limited to Crenshaw. Troy Reich, portraying Juror Eight, would also suddenly raise his voice to indicate anger rather than use the play’s action to build to such emotion. Reich’s performance was one of the strongest of the cast, delivering his lines without hesitation.
Paul Niles played the most racist juror on the panel, Juror Ten. For most of the play, Niles sat at the table and participated in the conversations. When his moment to go into a rant about “those people” came, he jumped up from the table and stomped around the room, believably yelling and gesturing as one would expect the character to do.
One of the most consistent performances was that of Benjamin Keegan Arnold as Juror Seven. Arnold accurately portrayed a man who was mostly disinterested in the deliberations and supremely interested in getting it over with. One of the things most important about the dialogue and action in this play is the mix of personalities and backgrounds that are represented around the table. Juror Seven could be overlooked by the audience, but Arnold’s consistency with his sidelong looks, exasperated sighs, and gestures was completely in keeping with the role.
Another strong performance was delivered by Tammy Langlitz as Juror Two. With downcast eyes and nervous wringing of hands, Langlitz portrayed the most timid juror very well. When it came time for Juror Two to be assertive, Langlitz did so without neglecting the timidity she had portrayed throughout the action.
Remaining jurors performed as needed. Melissa Wallis, in the role of Juror Four, was visibly convincing as a logic-minded, matter-of-fact woman, but her delivery was mechanical and rote throughout the play. Juror Six, portrayed by Sarah Lovelady, was unfortunately forgettable. Lovelady sat in her chair, crocheting most of the time, with few lines. Krysten Hahn portrayed Juror Five, who had grown up in the slums and provided a bit of information to the discussion late in the action. Paul Keyes portrayed a dull Juror Nine, interjecting little emotion in challenging the status quo as Juror Nine became the first to change his vote.
12 Angry Jurors has emotionally-charged dialogue and situations that still reflect some of the biases and judgments that exist in our world today. It is intended to be a serious drama that explores human emotion and societal issues. Unfortunately, the production at Lakeside Community Theatre generated unintentional laughter many times as actors delivered lines in entertaining form rather than the gritty realism demanded of the script.
Lakeside Community Theatre
6303 Main Street
The Colony, TX 75056
Plays through May 3rd
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm
Tickets are $15.00, $12.00 for seniors and students, and $10.00 for Lakeside members.
For information and to purchase tickets, visit www.lctthecolony.com or call their box office at 214-801-4869.