By Peyton Macrina and David Stringham
The plot of 12 Angry Jurors comes from the popular story “12 Angry Men”, which follows a group of jurors after the closing arguments of a murder trial. The jurors are faced with the dilemma of deciding the fate of a presumably lower class, inner-city teen accused of murdering his abusive father. A vote is called and all seem to agree that the boy is guilty; however, as they deliberate, Juror 8, the one holdout, forces the others to re-examine each piece of evidence, gradually changing their minds. As arguments ensue, backstories are brought to light, opinions clash, and only one thing can seem to change the other minds regarding the boy’s fate; is there a reasonable doubt?
The play is set in a singular room throughout its entirety and is meant to feel very claustrophobic and tense. Director Scott Cooper decided to set the play as an arena theatre, putting the audience very close to the set. This intensified the claustrophobic atmosphere of the play and allowed for any emotional outbursts to be even more profound. The lighting was entirely done by two long, bright, overhead lights that pushed the claustrophobic nature of the play even further.
Along with this, each part of the set was used very often and with much fluidity throughout the play. There were benches, as well as something else of interest in each corner. One corner had a bathroom setting with a sink, mirror, and enclosed room that was assumed to be a toilet, while another corner had the door to get back into the courtroom, which was used multiple times to transport evidence. The set also had a window that was the source of more tension as one juror complained about the wind. Another corner had a water cooler, which was used many times by varying jurors. The final corner was relatively bare compared to the others, but the bench there was still used multiple times throughout the play.
Other than this, the stage was composed of a single long table with a tissue box, along with a chair, pencil, and notepad for each juror. This allowed for further development of the jurors’ characters as some scribbled things down while another sniffled throughout the play and made use of the tissue box.
At the end of the play, the characters came out, along with the director, and after they had taken their bows they introduced themselves, either as actors or, in Cooper’s case, as the director, and allowed some questions from the audience. Some topics that were discussed included: the changes that occurred between “12 Angry Men” and 12 Angry Jurors, some choices the director made, some connections that actors had to their characters, and some questions that people had about specific events in the play.
The story, combined with the atmosphere and performances of the cast, created a very memorable viewing experience. As we got to know the characters more, steady themes of class-ism and discrimination became apparent. One of the main things that was changed from the original script was the inclusion of women as jurors, which provided an interesting dynamic for the cast to play with. When asked about the script and the freedom they were given with it, all cast members agreed that it was very liberating to have such directive freedom.
Overall, this play was a very entertaining event, and further plays directed by Cooper will have to be looked for.