Raise your hand if you want to send a possibly innocent 16-year-old boy to the electric chair for murdering his abusive father. One man believes there is reasonable doubt even with convincing evidence and two eyewitnesses.
Twelve people are angry, at each other, at the case, and at themselves for compromising their values just to reach a verdict and get out of that small, sweaty room.
“Twelve Angry Jurors,” adapted from the original 1957 film, “Twelve Angry Men,” managed to keep the audience covering their mouths in shock as the pressure not only remained high, but continued to escalate until the final exit.
The costumes were quite perfect and believable, reminiscent of the elegant charm of the 50s. And the attractive set fit the color scheme as well as served a background for a behind-the-scenes courtroom drama.
The 12 jurors could not keep their personal lives out of the provoking case.
Paige Murray’s character lived in the slums and her energy brought a certain determined street-smart combined with innocence that never let the tension drop while she defended the boy from being seen as a stereotype.
Donna Johnson’s character cannot let go of her own son’s estrangement and her explosion after the quick yelling match with Ryan Miller’s character was the most riveting moment in the play. And her afterwards calm was a perfect reflection and momentary placidity that questioned the motive for her storm.
Michael Dye’s character was more than just a comic relief in his cough drop offers and pushover tendencies. He showed that even the underdog has to struggle not to go along with the majority but decide for himself.
The jurors turn on each other and nothing can be resolved until Miller’s justice-seeking attitude spreads. His contemplation and steadiness is gripping, which forces the audience to consider themselves in this position.
To send a murderer to the electric chair is one thing. But to execute a possibly innocent young man is another.
“Twelve Angry Jurors” does not let the audience sit passively, but engages them in understanding the moral complexities of capital punishment. This is one of the most compelling dramas recently to play on the Lyceum stage; it will not be forgotten.