Superior Cast Provides Brilliant Acting
In 1955, 12 Angry Men was first seen on stage. Prior to that it was a television play, and then in 1957 it was made into the iconic movie starring Henry Fonda, E. G. Marshall, Jack Klugman and other greats. One might think that the material would be dated. Sadly, it’s not – as an examination of prejudice and racism, its dialogue rings too true today.
Now on stage at Playhouse II in Grand Bend, it remains set in 1957. There is no air conditioning in this courtroom, and no one asked the jurors to turn off their cell phones. Yet the discussion among the 12 jurors is completely relevant today.
The play covers the deliberations of the jury in a homicide trial where a teenager is accused of murdering his abusive father. The 12 men enter the jury room, and the foreman asks for a vote. They have a nearly unanimous decision of guilty, with a single dissenter saying not guilty. Juror #8 asks his fellow jurors if there could be reasonable doubt, and slowly, one by one, their minds are changed. The accused youth’s life is at stake: if found guilty he will face the electric chair. Between the many votes that are taken, the reasons for the jurors’ opinions are revealed. From an apparently disastrous personal relationship with a father to ingrained racism, the jurors allow their backgrounds to take over their reason.
Credit goes to director Marti Maraden for assembling an outstanding cast. Like the 1957 movie, this is an all-star jury. A collection of some of the best actors in Canada, these men have extensive bios that include powerhouse performances, many at the Stratford and Shaw Festivals.
Director Maraden herself has 18 years’ experience at Stratford as both an actor and director. She is responsible for some excellent drama at Drayton Entertainment, such as The Miracle Worker and Death of a Salesman.
Skye Brandon is excellent as Juror #8, who begins planting the seeds of doubt, and firmly but calmly sways others. Benedict Campbell is the very angry Juror #3. His rage is palpable as his temper flares. Similarly, Brad Rudy gives a powerful performance with his heated arguments. Jacob James is convincing as the foreman who tries to keep control. Keith Dinicol as the sincere, elderly juror, and Neil Barclay as the recent immigrant, both command the stage each in their turn. Thomas Duplessie is outstanding as the youngest juror. The entire cast is made up of brilliant actors, each giving an enthralling performances.
The play is not without comedic touches. Most of the laughter comes when jurors make hypocritical statements or fall into a trap and renounce earlier comments.
The set takes us back to 1957, filled with a long table and 12 solid oak chairs around it. One corner of the set turns around to reveal the men’s washrooms, making the audience privy to any backroom discussions.
It’s disheartening to realize that prejudice and racism is back with a vengeance today, and it’s especially sad to think that it always existed, after going underground for many years. Perhaps this classic play can serve as a mirror as we examine where we’ve come from and where we are headed.
Drayton Entertainment’s Artistic Director Alex Mustakas deserves our appreciation for including drama in the lineup. It is a refreshing change from the usual fare of comedies and musicals. Especially when Drayton can offer this impressive caliber of actors.
12 Angry Men will be on stage at Playhouse II, Grand Bend until August 3. (Note: Playing at Hamilton Family Theatre in Cambridge until August 24) Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com
Photo: Skye Brandon as Juror #8 (standing) and Company. Photo by Darlene O’Rourke.
12 Angry Men
Directed by Marti Maraden
Performed by Neil Barclay, Terry Barna, SkyeBrandon, Benedict Campbell, Keith Dinicol, Thomas Duplessie, J. Sean Elliott, Omar Forrest, Jacob James, Kevin Kruchkywich, Cyrus Lane, Brad Rudy, Jeffrey Wetsch.
Drayton Entertainment Production
Now At Hamilton Family Theatre, Cambridge until August 24
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
July 18 to August 3, 2019
Reviewed by Mary Alderson