TWELVE ANGRY JURORS
by Reginald Rose
Directed by Sharon Veselic
Stage Manager - Cayti Lang
Set Designer - Jeff Mizener
Construction/Paint Crew-Dana Harrison, Andy Knotts, Greg Kozakis, Nicholas Kozakis,Jeff Mizener, Noelle Salter, and Brian Tubbs
Painting Consultant - Ellen Mizener
Lighting Designer - Jeff Mizener
Lighting Consultant - Alan Keen
Costumer - Keith Warren
Assistant Costumer - Emily J. Miller
Sound Designer - Jeff Mizener
JUROR #1 - Mary Kathleen Harris
JUROR #2 - Kate Avery
JUROR #3 - Mark Ammann
JUROR #4 - Staci Cook
JUROR #5 - Amanda Henderson
JUROR #6 - Erin Maher
JUROR #7 - E. Scott Arnold
JUROR #8 - Travis Cook
JUROR #9 - Virgil Cox
JUROR #10 - Dana Harrison
JUROR #11 - Susan Spangler
JUROR #12 - Suzy Dotson
GUARD #1 - Verity Allen
Reviewed Performance 6/3/2011
Reviewed by Sten-Erik Armitage, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Eight women and four men file into a stark, New York City jury room on a swelteringly hot summer day in 1957. They are faced with what seems to be an open and shut case. Their task is to determine the fate of a 16 year old boy who stands accused of killing his father in cold blood. Should they find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, he will be executed. A vote is taken right away by the madam foreman to see how the jury stands. All but one man vote "guilty." The jury must reach a unanimous verdict ? and they do ? but only after an emotionally intense two hours of debate.
This classic story is best known by the name "Twelve Angry Men" ? a tele-drama from the 1950's that has been a perennial favorite of theatres around the country. The script has undergone a number of permutations to account for varying casts. There is an all-female version entitled, predictable enough, "Twelve Angry Women." As the cast at Runway Theatre is a mixed cast, we have "Twelve Angry Jurors."
You would be angry too if you were trapped in a hot jury room with no air conditioning, a broken fan, and one lone dissenter that has prevented you from reaching a quick and easy verdict! If you are not yet familiar with this marvelous script I won't spoil the end as that will make your experience seeing the show a two hour predictable jaunt to the conclusion.
That said, we can take a moment to look at some of the personalities in the jury room. We never hear the name of a single juror or the accused in this intense drama. They are anonymous to one another as they are to us. However, we are drawn inextricably to these characters during the course of the play as we learn about their own stories, catch glimpses of their personalities, and see how they deal with one another in this powder keg of a situation.
As Director Sharon Veselic writes in the program, Reginald Rose "did not write a play about a murder, he wrote a play about fairness, and the justice system. [?] The question of `reasonable doubt' is put to each of the 12 jurors as they dissect each fact, witness and representation made by the boy's attorney. One by one we see each juror reflect and decide, and some of them reveal their own demons and prejudices."
Therein we find the charm of this piece. The discussion of the case and the evidence is fascinating but it is discovering the inner demons and prejudices of our jurors that captivates the audience. Runway Theatre's cast of jurors do a good job with a classic script.
Travis Cook does an admirable job as the one juror who was brave enough to stand up to the other 11 in questioning the idea of "reasonable doubt." He is consistent, believable, and plays very well against his fellow jurors. The pain in his face is clear as he wrestles with what would be worse ? sending an innocent man to the chair, or allowing a guilty man to go free. He is persistent, persuasive, and believable.
Suzy Dotson, Erin Maher and Mary Kathleen Harris, are also believable and consistent throughout the evening. I emphasize this because of the unique nature of Runway Theatre. It is a wonderful venue with loyal supporters. It is a very intimate venue ? there is not a bad seat in the house. From the back row you can see the actors' expressions, and catch every nuance. As a result traditional stage technique is not always your best choice as an actor on Runway's stage. This particular stage requires the actor to perform as though they are performing for a camera rather than an auditorium. This is both the charm and the challenge of this type of a venue.
Unfortunately some of the cast has a harder time with that concept, and as a result their portrayal of their character appears to be more a comic, over-the-top caricature diminishing the effectiveness of the play. E. Scott Arnold is clearly a talented actor and a powerful figure on the stage but it doesn't translate well for him in his portrayal of Juror #7. Dana Harrison has the challenge of playing an angry, prejudiced, and possibly mentally unstable juror. Like Mr. Arnold she is clearly a talented performer. Unfortunately her portrayal falls into the same trap of being over-the-top due to the intimacy of the venue.
One of the great challenges of an ensemble piece like this is what do you do with yourself when you are not in the limelight? That challenge combined with the intimacy of the venue creates a problem for a couple of cast members. Amanda Henderson and Susan Spangler react with facial expressions and gestures to every line being delivered throughout the evening. The key is to react naturally and subtlety in order to not distract from the other actors who are the focus in the scene.
All of that said, this is an excellent production! The cast and crew do a wonderful job. I find Virgil Cox to be particularity charming and compelling in his role as the elder sage of the jury. Staci Cook also plays her part perfectly. She is stark, crisp, exacting, and logical ? and when she has cause to question herself, she captures the internal turmoil beautifully.
Mark Ammann has one of the most challenging roles to play for reasons I will not spoil in this review ? but his closing lines had my wife in tears. Well done, Mr. Ammann. It is not easy to convincingly and compellingly deliver those lines in the way that you do.
The set is period perfect. From the fan on the wall to the newspaper on the table, Jeff Mizener and his crew do a fantastic job of recreating the 1950's era jury room. Keith Warren and Emily Miller also do a convincing job costuming the cast, particularly Kate Avery, Staci Cook, and Travis Cook. I do feel the bailiff uniform for Verity Allen is a bit contrived, but she is on stage so briefly it doesn't distract at all.
Although this review may appear to sound negative in parts I want to emphasize that Runway Theatre's production of "Twelve Angry Jurors" does not disappoint. I encourage you to take time this weekend to support our local theatre companies and visit Runway Theatre. My wife and I had a wonderful time and I look forward to returning to one of the best small venue theatres in the DFW area!
Twelve Angry Jurors
Runway Theatre, 215 North Dooley Street, Grapevine, Texas 76051
***Limited run ? Friday, June 10th @ 8pm, Saturday, June 11th @ 8pm and Sunday, June 12th @ 3pm
Tickets are $15. For information or to purchase tickets, call 817-488-4842. You can also visit website: www.runwaytheatre.com