GROVE - “Twelve Angry Men” by Reginald Rose is a play that
goes back to the early days of television (1954) when Studio
One presented live dramas.
creation earned him three Emmy Awards for best director, best
actor and best writer. It was made into a 1957 movie starring
Henry Fonda. You may remember it as a compelling criminal
drama that takes place in the jury room and not the courtroom.
This play is very well written and will always be relevant as
long as we depend on juries to dole out justice in our penal
original script called for 12 male jurors. Since then, some
productions have involved women, but the present offering at
the Sunset Playhouse sticks to an all-male cast comprised of a
cross section of jurors of various ages and backgrounds.
we listen in on the deliberations, we discover that each
person brings his prejudices, experience, observational powers
and personality to bear on the question at hand.
and courtroom scenes remain eternally intriguing to most of
us. Our intellectual and emotional selves are stretched, our
abilities to distinguish between fact and inference are
challenged, our capacity to empathize, to reason, to influence
and be influenced by others - all these factors are brought to
case involves a young black man who supposedly killed his
father after years of physical and emotional abuse. Two
eyewitnesses - a neighbor and a woman across the El tracks -
have given testimony as to what they saw that night. The knife
used in the stabbing is also used as evidence.
juror defies the other 11 when he votes “not guilty” on
the first vote. Then the fun begins. As the arguments and
counter- arguments are heard, we begin to understand each
juror and how his own past experiences, intellectual and
emotional strengths, or weaknesses are affecting his judgment.
We also discover which jurors are persuadable and which are
adamant in their original decision despite conflicting
is a hot day, the room is small, the jurors want to get on
with their lives - perfect conditions for tension and
conflict. Whenever people are “trapped” in a situation
they’d rather not be in, it is hard to predict what might
happen. That’s probably why there are so many dramas set in
prisons, on boats or in jury or courtrooms.
Things start sizzling, challenging the foreman’s
ability to maintain order and get the job done.
to director Matt Daniels for his fine work. Koren Black’s
set design lent itself to some options for movement and varied
configurations of jurors. The restroom and the skyline both
afforded some contrast. This is a difficult play to block
because the audience can never see all 12 actors at the same
time. Director Matt Daniels did a noteworthy job of moving
jurors about so we could get to see and know each of them.
the actors delineated their individual roles, but a few stood
out above the rest. Randall
T. Anderson, Dan Esposito, Spence Mather, Jared Kuehn, Ralph
Frattura and Scott Jaeger all rendered their characters
jurors who also contributed significantly to the drama
included Dustin J. Martin, Michael Chobanoff, John Roberts,
Matthew J. Patten, Doug Smedbron and Gene Schulte, whose final
speech was chillingly delivered and served as the climax in a
Anderson leaves the jury room with Esposito, we felt the heavy
burden that these men bore in the cause of administering
justice in a very imperfect system. The final scene between
these two very different men was very poignant.