Twelve Angry Men, One Terrific Play.

twelve angry men

Lions Den Theatre’s production of Reginald Rose’s 1955 play Twelve Angry Men is a hot and intense look into the jury deliberations on the fate of a nineteen year old on death row accused of murdering his father. Originally considered an “open and shut” case for finding him guilty, one juror’s reasonable doubt causes the other eleven to re-examine the evidence as tempers flare and all the facts of the case come under burning scrutiny.

Director Keith Morrison places the action in the middle of the Bus Stop Theatre, with the audience sitting on three sides around the twelve jurors, which increases the imagery that these men are in a pressure cooker, set apart from the rest of the world, but with it encroached on them, waiting for their decision. Morrison doesn’t get bogged down with sets or props, keeping things very simple, which hooks the audience’s attention on the ensemble of actors and there is a feast of fascination to watch. I barely blinked for 80 minutes.

This ensemble works beautifully together and is comprised of twelve marvellously strong performances and interesting personality dynamics. Playwright Reginald Rose has constructed this play so that the audience is only given tiny glimpses into the windows of the lives of these twelve men, and we are, I think, encouraged to make judgements on each of them based on the little information we are able to discern. This, of course, mirrors the experience of the jurors, who are given only select information about the lives of the defendant, the victim and each witness in the trial and are expected to make informed decisions based on their own inferences, assumptions and subjective opinions. It is also interesting that since Rose does not name the defendant or the victim and just offers us the bare bones of a relatively simple, although cruel, crime, that the audience becomes less interested in what “actually” happened to the father and far more invested in who will win the standoff of Guilt versus Innocence in the Jury Room led by Juror Three and Juror Eight.

Ira Henderson plays Juror Three, and it is interesting that this is a British play because Henderson’s portrayal of this character and the way Rose has written it seemed very “Republican American” to me. Hotheaded, rash, and resolute in his initial opinion, with a fear of delving too far into facts or thinking too much with a bullying violent streak, Henderson’s Three is a composite of figures that will likely be familiar to you from Fox News. Henderson’s performance is flawless and perfectly matched by Daniel Gervais’ Juror Eight, articulate and smooth, whose probing mind connects dots the audience cannot foresee and advocates on behalf of justice, fairness and exploring all available options. Both men must convince the other ten of their point of view or else admit defeat as a hung jury.

All twelve actors give performances well worth seeing especially Shawn Maggio, as the stammering and sheepish Two, Dan Bray, who is reminiscent of an Astor or a Vanderbilt as Four, Mark Penny who pulls on the heartstrings gorgeously as Nine and Pasha Ebrahimi who is all dignity as Eleven.

In all Twelve Angry Men is a beautifully polished, intensely captivating production by Lions Den Theatre showcasing some of Halifax’s most promising and exciting theatre artists. You’ll be mad if you miss it.

Lions Den Theatre’s Twelve Angry Men plays at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen Street, Halifax) until Sunday August 5th, 2012. Performances on Saturday August 4th and Sunday August 5th at 2:00pm and 8:00pm. 

Tickets are $15 General and $12 Students/Seniors/Artists. For tickets or information, please contact lionsdentheatre@gmail.com. If you have already seen the show, you are able to go again for only $5.00. Sweet deal! 

Leave a Reply