Houston audiences have a few more days to witness “12 Angry Men” presented by the A.D. Players. This play kicks off the company’s 2015-2016 season. This classic courtroom drama still leaves audiences with something to ponder.
“12 Angry Men” written by Reginald Rose was first presented as an American teleplay in 1954, later a film starring Henry Ford in 1957 and finally adapted for the stage. Since its first creation, the topic presented in this story has intrigued and provoked audiences. Director Jennifer Dean presents the play as originally imagined avoiding any other distractions or gimmicks. This play’s success hinges on the believability of the battle between the all-male jurors as they debate the innocence or guilt of a young man of a different race and Dean allows the play to stand on its own merits. She assembles a talented cast and presents the material without any modernization to reveal to audiences the power this play still has today.
This play follows twelve jurors as they deliberate the guilt or innocence of a young ethnic man accused of killing his father. Set in the 50s, racial tensions were high yet many of the same debates linger today giving the play relevance. After all the facts are presented and the jurors get into the jury room, the verdict seems open and shut for guilty. Juror # 8 played by Kevin Dean is the lone holdout and many of the men feel he creates unneeded discussion.
Kevin Dean gives a strong performance. He has both a tough and pensive demeanor that is fitting his character. As his character appears to be the only one that truly understands his duty as a juror, he slowly presents his arguments and gives not only his fellow cast members but the audience something to think about. On the other hand, Rutherford Cravens who plays juror # 3 offers the loudest, most vicious exclamations for guilt. These two characters and actors perfectly parallel each other on stage as their banter sets the tone for the rest of the production, with other jurors falling in line accordingly.
As the play moves forward, the discussion and debate between jurors goes from light and jovial to intense and heated. Each juror is varying and unique much like this outstanding assemble cast as they contemplate a final verdict. Throughout the production each actor gets a moment to make the most of their time on stage. Foreman played by Mark Roberts offers a believable performance as they all stumble through the deliberations, while he has the hardest job of all, trying to maintain order.
Marion Arthur Kirby, plays juror #9, he is the first to make the switch on his verdict choice. Kirby tugs at the heartstrings of audiences as he not only speaks to his fellow jurors detailing why he changes his verdict. Kirby’s characters switch offers the first of many standout moments for this assemble jury cast. Philip Lehl and Braden Hunt, jurors #4 and 5 respectively, also steal the stage throughout the production. Lehl has a strong command of the stage and multiple times pulls eyes to him with his stunning stage presence. Hunt has an understated poise onstage as his character struggles on stage with the possible life ending decision the verdict will create. Ted Doolittle, Jeff McMorrough, Marty Blair, Craig Griffin, Ric Hodgin and Jason Bergstrom complete the remaining twelve jurors and give the audience reasons to struggle with what they are seeing on stage.
This play remains relevant today due to its content and themes. Even if a person has never had to serve on a jury before, audiences can see the parallels of the racial and prejudicial thinking presented on stage in everyday life. Media and entertainment constantly dictates how we see the world around us and like the lone juror #8, we all must decide what the truth is in the things presented to us daily. “Prejudice always obstructs the truth,” said juror #8. This play asks the audience to go out into the world understanding this and to be able to possible fight past this to hopefully see what the truth really is. This play simply ask audiences to question and this production gets that message across flawlessly.
“12 Angry Men” has now been extended through October 4. For ticket information, visit their site at www.adplayers.org, call 713-526-2721 or you can purchase at the door. Tickets are going fast so get them while you can. Check out the other events going on this summer at the theater and see what shows are up ahead for both the Main stage and Children’s theater for the 2015-2016 season.