Theatre AACC returns this season its production of “12 Angry Jurors.” The American classic, “12 Angry Men,” was written by Reginald Rose and adapted by Sherman L. Sergel as “12 Angry Jurors.” It first appeared as a television play in 1954. It has been adapted several times for many productions, most famously as the 1957 Sidney Lumet movie, “12 Angry Men.” (The title changes to “12 Angry Jurors” or “12 Angry Men and Women” according to the adaptation and casting.)
…well directed by Madeline Austin…is worth seeing to remind us of the power of listening and the importance of reason.
Set in the 60s, the play shows the inner workings of a jury deliberating the guilt or innocence of an inner city boy accused of stabbing and killing his father. All the biases that the jurors bring with them are exposed under the industrial light of a well-worn deliberation room. The play starts with a seemingly open and shut case as presented. As the jurors get settled in the jury room, they chatter about the certainty of the boy’s guilt and how quickly they will finish the task at hand.
The set, designed by Sean Urbantke, is a simple room that covers the stage with two tables, twelve chairs, walls that are in serious need of painting, and windows that barely open to let in air against the stifling heat of summer. The windows are nicely backlit (lighting designed by Mikayla French) to allow light into the dark room as the jurors enter at first, and again after the last juror leaves, belying the import of the decisions made in the room when fully lit.
The tension of the play comes to bear when the jurors take their first vote. To the surprise of eleven jurors there is one holdout. As the rest of the play progresses, the jurors try to sway one side or the other so they can reach the required unanimous verdict.
This AACC production, well directed by Madeline Austin, brings to mind Jean Paul Sartre’s book “No Exit,” that postulates hell is others. The people assembled here have disparate opinions and would never be together in any other situation. The minute the bailiff locks them into the jury room. they begin to argue and bully each other, and seem hopelessly set in the certainty that their own opinion is the correct one. Austin keeps the actors moving—pacing, charging each other, and pushing chairs back in frustration.
The main bully, well played by Nathan Garcia, is convincing as he demands to know “what is wrong with you?!” to one juror after another when they express doubt. The main protagonist, played by Jackson Bondurant, calmly and deliberately drives the action by questioning each bit of testimony as they consider it, using reason as a weapon against false certainty. Jana Naylor is great as a naturalized citizen who reminds the jurors of the importance of being able to speak freely, as it is not a commonly held right in other parts of the world. Eliza Geib is impressive as a bigot, spewing venom at the (unknown) race of the accused boy and his ‘people’ and dissolving into an obnoxious tirade against other races just before she realizes she needs to change her vote.
“12 Angry Jurors” at AACC is worth seeing to remind us of the power of listening and the importance reason. Ultimately, this play reaffirms faith in the U.S. justice system. If these 12 anonymous people— who are as different as they can be—manage to reach a unanimous decision, it seems that their verdict must be a just one.
Running Time: Approximately one hour and 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
“12 Angry Jurors” at Anne Arundel Community College’s Pascal Center for the Performing Arts, 101 College Parkway, Arnold, MD, plays through November 12. For more information and tickets, contact the Box Office at email@example.com, call 410-777-2457, or go online.