Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 28, 2008

12 Angry Men

The Bushnell, Hartford
through March 30, 2008
By Keith H. Purcell

Reginald Rose’s gritty human drama “12 Angry Men” was vividly brought to life as part of the Bushnell’s Broadway Series. It is a complex study of human interrelationships under stress and how it brings out the worst and the best in men.

The story revolves around jury deliberations of a capital murder case on a hot summer day in 1954. In the locked confines of the jury room, all but one of the jurors believe the young defendant is guilty and would rather get their duty over with quickly and go home.

In this production, which is played in one act without an intermission, Richard Thomas stars as Juror Eight, a role made famous by Henry Fonda in the 1957 movie of the same name. This juror is not so sure about the boy’s guilt, but believes that the jury should not vote to sentence him to death without talking about it first, and discuss it, they do. And so begins the crux of the entire play.

Two performances especially stood out. Julian Gamble as Juror Three portrays a man whose own troubled relationship with his son colors his judgment and arguments and eventually, his vote. His final rant made a few audience members gasp and others silent. Kevin Dobson (of "Kojak" fame) played Juror Ten with such venom and hatred for people of the defendant’s kind, it made audience some members squirm.

Allen Moyer’s set design superbly evoked images of what one would think a New York jury room of a by-gone era would be like on a hot summer day. The lighting and sound design by Paul Palazzo and Brian Ronan also added a just the right touch in the form of a late summer thunderstorm.

The only disappointment in the production was, unfortunately, the performance of Richard Thomas. The portrayal of his character was inconsistent and constantly looking into the audience.