Soulpepper’s Twelve Angry Men is a must see show. This handsome production directed by Alan Dilworth is simply terrific. Anytime I see a play, my desire is to leave the theater inspired and energized and this show did not disappoint.
Twelve Angry Men, is a tense, courtroom drama written by Reginald Rose. It was originally a television play and went on to be adapted for the stage and in 1957, became an Oscar nominated film starring Henry Fonda.
The entire play takes place in a stuffy jury deliberation room on the hottest day of the year. Twelve men are asked to decide the fate of a 16-year-old boy, if he is found guilty, he will have a date with the electric chair. Eleven men say guilty but there is one dissenter who feels that there is reasonable doubt. During the course of the show, other jurors also begin to have doubts about the guilt of the boy. Anger flares and deep-seated beliefs are revealed.
Dilworth has cleverly staged the show with audience members on either side of the theater with a long wooden jury table placed in the middle of the playing space. The audience has a bird’s eye view of the tension that slowly mounts in the crowded room. The jurors are locked in deliberations with only a bathroom, a water cooler, and a broken fan available to them. The result is stifling for both the actors and the audience.
I did not want this play to end. It was thrilling from start to finish. The acting across the board was impeccable. Every actor created a distinct, interesting character and all of them had their moments to shine. Especially wonderful performances were given by Stuart Hughes as Juror 8, the first juror to dissent, Robert Nasmith as Juror 9, William Webster as bigoted Juror 10, Jordan Pettle as German born watchmaker Juror 11, and the always hilarious Michael Simpson as Juror 6. Joseph Ziegler’s final scene as Juror 3 is beautifully acted, though I truly wish he hadn’t been directed to stand on the table to deliver part of his powerful speech. The choice seemed contrived and cheapened the moment.
I must also commend Yannik Larivee’s set and costumes that gorgeously placed us in a different era and so perfectly created an oppressive jury room. In Act 2, Larivee delivers a rainstorm with water falling on either side of the audience. Small details of flickering boardroom lights (also placed in the audience) and an old-fashioned exit sign were included.
I have never seen the film version of Twelve Angry Men, which I hear, is fabulous, but I am positive that Soulpepper’s powerful version stands on its own. The play has stood the test of time and is as riveting now as I imagine it was when it was originally produced.
Twelve Angry Men is on stage until