12 Angry Jurors
Anne Russel Theater
By Reginald Rose and Sherman L. Sergel
Directed by Thomas Ouellette
Rollins College, Winter Park FL
We all dread that official looking post card, but it IS important, and this lively story shows exactly why. A young man is accused of murdering his father. They had a loud fight, an eye witness saw him do it, and the murder weapon was on him. Fry him now, or shall we talk about it first? No names here, everyone is just a number, Juror 8 (Sydney Pigmon) is the only hold out on the first vote, and while the room swelters she points up inconsistencies, stretched truths, and potential lies. The kid had a public defender, the murder weapon was commonly available at dime stores, and the eyewitness didn’t have her glasses on and saw everything through a moving EL train. Was justice served? Who knows. But there WAS enough doubt to keep the kid alive.
It’s not a promising premise, but the action lies in the conflicts between the jurors, their prejudices, personal experiences, and emotions. While the theater has excellent air conditioned , we feel the humidity and heat index of the 1950’s jury room. Juror 7 (Josh Scott) has baseball tickets tonight, Juror 2 (Abby Summers) get bullied by the others, and Juror 11 (Ghina Fawaz) came from the middle east yet knows more about American law than most of the locals. As the decision process unfolds, we see just about every possible form of persuasion. Base Ball guy changes his mind to stay in the majority, he has no skin in getting to a fair choice. Other flip on relatively minor procedural issues, or on the definition “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Juror 9 juror maps himself into the potential injustice, and others are swayed by logic, iffy time lines, or by untangling the prosecutor’s clever tricks. Even group shame others juror last to flip, and at the end only juror MEAN holds out; arguing for extermination of all the people even vaguely similar to the defendant. Basically, her change of mind comes from group exile, but ultimate justice is done both in the story, and in this treatment of a difficult script.