reviewed by Vickie Cornelius Phipps

Twelve Angry Men is a play by Reginald Rose, adapted from his 1954 television play for the CBS Studio One Anthology television series. Its Broadway debut came fifty years later, on October 28th, 2004, by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre. It is best recognized as a 1957 movie starring Henry Fonda and later, the remake in 1997 starring Jack Lemmon, along with many other top actors.

The assembled jury for IRT’s production of “Twelve Angry Men”

This courtroom drama tells the story of a dozen jurors who deliberate the fate of an 18-year-old boy from the slums of New York City, who has been charged with premeditated murder of his own father. A guilty verdict means the death penalty. There are two witnesses; a lady from across the street and an old man who lives on the floor below the defendant. The jury members are identified by numbers; no names. The entire play takes place within a small jury room and an adjacent washroom.

The play forces the audience to self-reflect while observing the personality and the actions of the jurors. As the jurors dissect the facts and the credibility of the witnesses, prejudices and social tempers emerge. Each man is confronted with his own preconceived beliefs through the lenses of personal life experiences and rooted prejudices. I was struck by the timelessness of the themes of this play. “We live in dangerous times.”

IRT’s Twelve Angry Men, under the fine direction and choreographed precision of James Still, is a well-produced and thought-provoking work, injected with some tension reducing humor. It is performed by a stellar cast. From juror 1 through 12: Seth Andrew Bridges, Scot Greenwell, Craig Spidle, Henry Woronicz, Demetrios Troy, Casey Hoekstra, Michael Stewart Allen, Cris Amos, Mark Goetzinger, Robert Ierardi, Patrick Clear, Charles Goad, and Adam O. Crowe.

The cast of IRT’s “Twelve Angry Men” – from upper left: Seth Andrew Bridges, Scot Greenwell, Craig Spidle, Henry Woronicz, Demetrios Troy, Casey Hoekstra, Michael Stewart Allen, Cris Amos, Mark Goetzinger, Robert Ierardi, Patrick Clear, and Charles Goad

As Juror #8, the virtuous architect and compelling voice of reason, Amos plays it steady and strong, but I couldn’t help but want more dynamics from this character. “I just want to talk for a while” – so begins the jury deliberation on the hottest day of the year in the un-airconditioned room as jurors begin to bicker and battle it out from competing views. Mark Goetzinger, Juror #9, gives a strong portrayal of the mild, old gentleman. Scot Greenwell, Juror #2, stands out as the timid man in the group. Patrick Clear, as Juror #11, the refugee from Europe, remains dignified & poised against the spewed-out prejudices and Juror #3, Craig Spidle, is so believable as the most abhorrent member of the group that I personally felt the baggage he was carrying.

Each member of this solid ensemble takes a turn in the spotlight and has opportunity to display his distinctive character in dialogue and interactions, aided visually through attire (Costumer and Scenic Designer: Junghyun Geogia Lee). They are also assisted by a clever bit of staging: the centered long table and chairs are on a slowly revolving turntable, which solves site-line issues while providing the audience with an ever-changing perspective, both literally and figuratively. The story line never reveals the ethnicity nor race of the alleged killer, leaving us to fill in the blanks and, in the process, test our own possible prejudices and class consciousness. This truly American drama brings to light our justice system and examines deeply the intimate ways we relate to each other.  

Usually I marvel at the magnificent sets that are constructed for IRT productions. And this set had no shortage of interesting elements such as the aforementioned turntable and the cleverly lit scrim wall of men’s washroom. But there was something about the three windows on the back wall of the set for this show that I found distracting. The views out those windows seemed incoherent, providing confounding perspectives of buildings and sky that looked like they couldn’t belong together.

All in all, however, this is another terrific production, as we’ve come to expect from IRT. The Verdict: Go see this play – because we can all use reminding of how easily we can slip into prejudice.

IRT’s Twelve Angry Men runs through September 29th. Go to http://www.irtlive.com or call the box office at 317-635-5252 for tickets. The theatre is located at 140 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204.

  • Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale
  • Photo provided by IRT