note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Beverly Creasey
Court TV addicts can find psychic crime solvers, forensic files and juror interviews from famous cases. They can play “ I Detective” and “solve a “cold case” but so far cameras haven’t been allowed inside jury deliberations. That’s where the action is. Turn off the tube and head to Roxbury Community College for as gripping an evening of theater as you’ll find anywhere. Reginald Rose’s “12 Angry Men” has been transformed into TWELVE ANGRY JURORS because director Robbie McCauley cleverly adds women to the mix.
McCauley’s taut, suspenseful production changes the dynamic ever so subtly—and the surprise is that the play is changed for the better. You may remember the all-male movie (which Rose adapted from his own teleplay) with Henry Fonda as the one juror who believes the defendant is innocent. Jason Cross has the plum role in the RCC production and he gives a tour de force performance as the voice of reason crying out in the wilderness. Cross’s determined juror has to withstand the anger of eleven individuals who want to go home---then be steadfast, kind and convincing enough to win them over to his side.
Tonie Nobles, too, gives a powerful performance as the last holdout. Nobles makes her a principled woman who needs solid proof to sway her from her position. McCauley knows that every role is integral to the story: Each character is fully drawn. Each stands out in relief (in the story and in the freeze frames at the end of each scene). From Louis Jacques, Jr.’s riveting performance as the belligerent hothead to Mari Green’s thoughtful, measured immigrant, from Frank Shefton’s dignified “gent” to Susan Lumbarde Verticelli’s rage-filled fanatic, each performance is a world in a nutshell. And we get to see what really happens inside the jury room—where life and death are the stakes..
This is what theater should be: provocative, thrilling and accessible: You’ll pay more for a movie ticket than you’ll pay at RCC. It’s a straight shot up the street from the Boston Center for the Arts (by car) and a short train ride to the Ruggles Stop on the T.
I rest my case.