Twelve Angry Jurors Review – Bringing the Jury Up-to-Date

Cast of TWELVE ANGRY JURORS - Photo by Doug Engalla
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TWELVE ANGRY JURORS was first penned by Reginald Rose and broadcast in 1954 as an episode of the “Studio One” CBS television series. Originally titled “Twelve Angry Men,” the play was very well received. In 1955, Rose wrote the screenplay for and co-produced the 1957 movie directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Henry Fonda. Again an audience favorite, “Twelve Angry Men” for nominated for three Academy Awards. Since its first production, the play has seen numerous adaptations. In 1997, “Twelve Angry Men” was remade for television starring George C. Scott, James Gandolfini, Jack Lemmon, Edward James Olmos, Hume Cronyn, and Tony Danza. In fact, the list of stars who appeared in various productions reads like a roster of Hollywood VIPs. Over the years, adaptations have included an all-comedian revival in 2003 and a number of versions changing the composition of the jury from an all-white male cast wearing business suits and ties in fascinating ways. The play has been entitled variously “Twelve Angry Jurors,” “Twelve Angry Men,” “Twelve Angry Woman,” and “Twelve Angry Men and Women.”

Tamir Yardenne and Mark Stancato – Photo by Doug Engalla

Critics were enthusiastic when reviewing the play. For example, Broadway World opined: “…you really need to see this gem of a show…plays out in taut-edge-of-your-seat real time.” The Maryland Theatre Guide also had a positive view: “Although written more than half a century ago, the subject matter feels painstakingly relevant for today’s audience…thought-provoking and enthralling…with a brilliantly written script and filled with lots of emotion and edge-of-your-seat moments.” In 2024, the Group Rep proudly presents TWELVE ANGRY JURORS to a modern audience.

Richard Reich, Cathy Diane Tomlin, Linda Alznauer, Neil Thompson, Mark Stancato, Tamir Yardenne, Paul Cady, Belinda Howell, and Mouchette van Helsdingen – Photo by Doug Engalla

The time is the summer of 1958, and the place is a jury room. The closing arguments in a murder trial have just concluded, and the twelve jury members file into the jury room in order to decide the young inner-city defendant’s fate. This jury is one which might have been considered highly unusual in 1958 – but which reflects societal changes in 2024. Among the twelve jurors and one alternate, there are seven woman and five men. Ten jurors are Caucasian, two jurors are black, one juror is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and the alternate is an Asian-American. This jury clearly reflects an ethnic, racial, and cultural cross-section in today’s cities.

Neil Thompson, Tamir Yardenne, Stan Mazin, Belinda Howell, Melissa Strauss, Mouchette van Helsdingen, Linda Alznauer, Cathy Diane Tomlin, Mark Stancasto, and Stephanie T. Keefer – Photo by Doug Engalla

Each juror also brings his own opinions, prejudices, values, and observations into the jury room, and most are not shy about expressing their viewpoints. Juror 10 (Belinda Howell) personifies the perfect bigot, while Juror 3 (Mark Stancato) is without a doubt the angriest man in town who sees the world in black and white and never allows gray to enter. Juror 8 (Neil Thompson) marches to his own drummer – and soon stands alone in his commitment to seeking justice. Juror 6 (Cathy Diane Tomlin) and Juror 5 (Tamir Yardenne) could easily become isolated as the only blacks in the room, while Juror 12 (Mouchette van Helsdingen) may feel like an outsider in this group of Americans born and bred. The balance of the twelve jurors and one alternate (Paul Cady, Linda Alznauer, Richard Reich, Stan Mazin, Stephanie T. Keefer, and Tilly Ye) also play key roles in formulating the final decision. Juror 1 (Melissa Strauss) has her hands full dealing with this often opinionated and too often overly emotional crowd – probably also true for director Tom Lazarus. Beware of the fireworks that ensue. If you’re wondering about the verdict, you’ll have to come and see this well written, carefully directed, beautifully performed, and thought-provoking play. It remains fascinating and relevant to today’s world, and it’s one of the Group Rep’s best productions.

Cast of TWELVE ANGRY MEN during talk-back – Photo by Elaine L. Mura

TWELVE ANGRY JURORS runs through March 3, 2024, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Group Rep performs at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are $35 (seniors and students $30; parties of 10+ $25). For information and reservations, call 818-763-5990 or go online.

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